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Women's soccer takes down Northwestern in tough conditions

October 25, 2013

Despite difficult playing conditions and winds up to 20 miles per hour, the MSU women’s soccer team beat Northwestern, 2-1, in Evanston, Ill., on Friday night.

MSU (9-6-2 overall, 3-6-0 Big Ten) quickly fell behind the Wildcats (3-12-2, 1-8-0) when, in the 15th minute, Northwestern midfielder Margo McGinty shot from 18 yards out and got it past Gauruder in the top left corner of the net.

Head coach Tom Saxton said the Wildcats got the best of them physically in the early going and got better position than the Spartans. It showed in the final box score, with MSU out fouling Northwestern 22-10.

“They were getting position on us aggressively and quickly, and we were caught reacting and forced to foul quite a bit,” Saxton said. “We made a couple changes from the bench and those players picked us up, and we raised our level in the battle.It was a back-and-forth game and we took advantage at the end, but it was a war, there’s no doubt about it.”

The Spartans answered back with their own goal in the 33rd minute. Sophomore midfielder Kirsten Evans battled with the Wildcat defender and got a shot off from 15 yards out to score her second goal of the season.

Like Saxton said, it was back-and-forth for much of the second half. In the 81st minute, Northwestern’s Kate Allen got off a shot, but it hit the cross bar. McGinty got another shot off about 10 seconds later but sailed high.

Less than two minutes later, Saxton said junior forward Paige Wester turned a corner and found sophomore forward Rachel Van Poppelen, who took advantage to give MSU the victory. It was Van Poppelen’s third goal of the season and her second goal in two games.

With the win, the Spartans will most likely need one more win in its final two games.

There’s only one catch. The final two games on MSU’s schedule are against two of the top ten scoring offenses in the nation — Illinois (8-6-2, 3-4-1) and No. 16 Penn State (12-3-1, 6-2-0). They take on Illinois in Champaign, Ill., on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

Despite an average record, Illinois has the nation’s leading scorer on its side. Illinois forward Jannelle Flaws has 18 goals on the season, which is tied for the school record.

After practice on Wednesday, Saxton said it will be difficult playing Illinois only two days after facing Northwestern, especially with the recent injury to senior defender Kelsey Mullen, who has anchored the Spartan’s defense for much of her four years.

“We just need to keep our backs as rested and confident as possible,” Saxton said. “We’re just beat up to death in the back. When we lost Mullen here for a while, we got some sore warriors and a lot of them have not went through the rigors of a season yet, so we just gotta hang in there.”

Once friends, now foes

When MSU takes on Illinois, freshman midfielder Kaylee Phillips and freshman defender Jessica Kjellstrom will face an old friend.

Just last season, Phillips and Kjellstrom was a part of the Michigan Hawks soccer club of the Elite Clubs National League. One of their teammates, Casey Conine, now is a freshman defender for Illinois.

Kjellstrom said she played with Conine for about five years, and will get to face each other at the collegiate level for the first time.

Like Kjellstrom and Phillips, Conine already has received significant playing time with her respective team. She has started in 12 of the 14 games she has played in and has scored twice and assisted four other goals so far this season.

“It’s actually going to be kind of cool since I’ve played with her pretty much for like five years on club, and now going head to head, it’s going to be a battle,” Kjellstrom said. “Then again after the game we’ll be … hugging each other.”

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