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Soccer grabs first-round bye in NCAA Tournament

November 18, 2013
	<p>Junior forward Tim Kreutz heads the ball during the game against Michigan on Nov. 9, 2013, at DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines, 2-0. Danyelle Morrow/The State News</p>

Junior forward Tim Kreutz heads the ball during the game against Michigan on Nov. 9, 2013, at DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines, 2-0. Danyelle Morrow/The State News

Photo by Danyelle Morrow | The State News

The season isn’t over for the men’s soccer team.

Despite a 1-0 loss to Indiana Sunday afternoon in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game, the Spartans earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

MSU will have a bye in the first round and will host the winner of Louisville vs. Denver Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. at DeMartin Stadium.

“There are 207 teams in Division I college soccer,” head coach Damon Rensing told his squad before the selection show began. “But it’s still a privilege to be one of those 48, and it’s not an easy task. You all did a great job, and I’m excited to start the second season with you guys.”

As an 11-seed, the Spartans are the only seeded ?Big Ten team in the tournament.

Louisville is 11-4-3 coming into the tournament. The Cardinals won 3-0 at Indiana and tied Ohio State in the regular season, and drew with both Northwestern and Michigan in exhibition matches.

Denver is riding an 8-game winning streak and a 14-game unbeaten streak after winning the Summit League Tournament. The Pioneers haven’t lost since Sept. 14.

“Denver is a talented team who has been winning a lot of games,” Rensing said. “Louisville is very well-coached, and very experienced. (They’ve) been to the College Cup and had some deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. The winner of that game will be tough.”

Over the season, MSU has picked up a few injuries, so the bye is a blessing in more than one way.

Junior defender Ryan Keener and junior forward Adam Montague didn’t ?play in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game, and senior defender Kevin Cope wore a flak jacket to protect his broken ribs.

Cope said that the extra time off is a good break for more than just those recovering from injuries.

“We just spent a week ?in a hotel, so guys are physically drained and emotionally drained,” he said. “Having those extra days off, the focus will be there, but not necessarily the intensity. Not having to worry about that intensity will give guys a chance to be refreshed and be good for Sunday.”

Penn St., Wisconsin, Northwestern and Indiana are the other Big Ten teams in the tournament, and all have first round games.

Indiana, the 2012 NCAA champions, will face off against 2011 NCAA champions Akron in a matchup that elicited a big response from the ever-curious Spartans.

MSU was what Rensing said was a “bubble seed” team, with wins on the road against ?tournament teams like Indiana, Northwestern and Marquette.

But the beauty of this tournament is that it gives the Spartans an opportunity to play teams they otherwise would match up with.

“We’ll be able to find out enough about those teams,” junior forward Tim Kreutz said. “Louisville is from ?the Midwest. Denver plays big-time schools and we’re?a big-time school, so we know a lot about big schools in the country.

For Rensing, the formula for making a deep run towards ?the College Cup Final in Philadelphia is to keep doing what has gotten them this far all season.

“We don’t need to change a whole lot,” he said. “We don’t need players to be Superman to get further.”

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