A second half goal denied the No. 20 men’s soccer team its second straight Big Ten Championship in a row after a 1-0 loss to Indiana on Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.
Jamie Vollmer netted a 66th-minute goal to earn the Hoosiers (8-11-2) an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“We were good enough on the day to win,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “It’s a disappointing loss for our guys because I thought they put a lot into not just this game, but the previous games in this tournament. Anytime you have a chance to win a championship for yourselves and the university, you want to do that.”
The game was moved up from 2 p.m. to 11 a.m. because of threatening weather in the area. Still, the wet field and gusting wind played a factor throughout the game.
Both teams had chances in the first half, but MSU was going with the wind and outshot the Hoosiers 10-5.
Senior defender Ryan Thelen sent in a free kick, but junior midfielder Fatai Alashe couldn’t get a clean shot, and his header went just wide of the net.
The best chance came when junior forward Blake Skamiera got a pass inside the box and kicked the ball on the half-volley, but it hit the post.
In the second half, Indiana had the wind in their favor, and went on the attack early and often.
Junior midfielder Kyle Rutz had the first shot of the half for the Spartans, but then the Hoosiers took the next 11 shots, and it was the last one that made all the difference.
Jamie Vollmer intercepted a goal kick by Bennett in the 66th minute, and slotted home a shot to the left of the goal from the top of the box.
“The team that had the wind was definitely the better team,” Rensing said. “Even though there were rough conditions, there was some good soccer being played between both teams. For us, we had a couple of chances that didn’t go in, and Indiana had one that happened to go in.”
Indiana outshot MSU 18-14, and led in the corner kick department, 9-0.
The game was overshadowed by the lack of junior defender Ryan Keener on the back line. Alashe moved from the midfield to fill the empty spot, and junior midfielder Ben Myers stepped in the midfield.
Rensing said Alashe started the attack from the midfield, and there were some times on restarts that the Spartans missed Keener.
“Fatai did a great job back there, and we knew he would, because he’s done that and played there,” he said. “Give Ben Myers credit, he stepped up and played well in the holding mid.”
The win clinches an NCAA tournament bid for the defending NCAA champions. The Spartans, who have the best RPI in the Big Ten, will have to wait for the selection show Monday at 12 p.m. to see if they’ll get an at-large bid.
“We just didn’t happen to see the ball go in the net today,” Rensing said. “The guys are disappointed but, when they see our name pop up tomorrow, in the new season, we’ll focus our attention there.”
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