The men’s soccer team lost 2-1 to Valparaiso in a hard fought game Sunday afternoon at DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field.
Senior defender Kevin Cope tallied in the 67th minute to tie the score at one, but the defense couldn’t hold the attack of the Crusaders.
“We’ve just got to come out with a better mentality,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “We didn’t come out sharp at all. You’ve got to credit Valparaiso, they came in well prepared to the game. We need guys out there to make good decisions, and we just weren’t sharp on decision making.”
The first few minutes of the game started slowly, with MSU having a quality chance when freshman midfielder Dewey Lewis had a wide open shot on the net. Valpo defender Adrian Graham played the role of goalkeeper and made a kick save on the goal line.
Shortly after the chance, Lewis needed to be helped off the field with an injury and did not return. Rensing did not give an update on the injury after the game.
Todd Vervynckt put the Crusaders out in front in the 23rd minute when a loose ball in front of the net found the lower left corner.
Sophomore midfielder Jay Chapman said it was a breakdown defensively that led to the goal, but that it can only make the team stronger.
“The goal was one that we shouldn’t have given up,” he said. “It was a team breakdown, it was a giveaway and the counterattack. Valparaiso came in very well prepared, and you can tell that they watched a lot of video on us because they were calling out marks.”
The Spartans came out in the second half with a renewed sense of offense. In the 67th minute, Cope leveled the score off a corner by senior defender Ryan Thelen that junior defender Ryan Keener headed back in front of net.
It was just the third goal in his Spartan career, and like the goal he scored against Western Michigan, he said it was a lucky one.
“It was a good ball by Ryan Thelen, and Keener did his job on the back post to play it back to me,” Cope said. “I was fortunate to get it, and maybe I stole it from him, but I’m going to make sure it gets in the back of the net.”
Valpo got the game winner in the 79th minute when a shot was blocked by Keener and deflected to Nick Suker, who buried the shot past sophomore goalkeeper Zach Bennett. Bennett couldn’t make the reaction save.
MSU outshot Valpo 14-12, and had five corner kicks while the Crusaders had none. Valpo played a physical game from the get-go, racking up 16 fouls and a pair of yellow cards.
Cope said when the team is focused, they can match the physicality and energy of any team in the country, and it starts with getting ready for Wednesday’s showdown at University of Detroit Mercy.
“In college soccer, anybody can beat anybody and we’re living proof of that,” Cope said. “In the past few seasons, we’ve lost to teams that we should have won, and beat teams that took it to us. It comes down to working hard and getting back to that blue collar mentality that we always have when we win games.”
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