The women’s soccer team will take its undefeated record into the opening weekend of Big Ten conference play. And if it hopes to keep the loss column empty, it will have to defeat two very difficult opponents.
MSU (6-0 overall) will take on No. 9 Wisconsin (6-0 overall) on Friday at 3:30 p.m. On Sunday, they will be back it against Minnesota (3-3 overall) at noon. Both games will be home for the Spartans at DeMartin Stadium.
The Badgers were picked in the preseason to finish second in the conference. They have lived up to the hype and have given up just one goal so far this season.
After scoring three goals in its first two games, Wisconsin has ripped off 15 total goals in the four games since. Junior midfielder Kinley McNicoll was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week on Tuesday, and senior forward Cara Walls leads the Big Ten with seven goals.
“We have to play a complete game,” MSU head coach Tom Saxton said. “That was the area of emphasis going into the opening weekend (of the season) in California. Then we’ve got to find a way to transition over and generate some offense...We’ll be ready, but we’ve got a tough test.”
MSU’s conference opener against the Badgers will potentially be a draining game, but the team will have less than 48 hours to recover and get ready for Minnesota on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a grind in the Big Ten,” Saxton said. “We have two Friday-Sunday weekends to start off the Big Ten season, and those are by far the toughest. You’re going to expend a ton of energy on Friday, and then you’ve got to come back and regroup and find a way on Sunday.”
MSU played somewhat of a Big Ten primer last Sunday against Western Michigan, as both teams engaged in very physical game. Junior forward Allyson Krause, whose eight points are second on the team, believes that the Spartans are prepared for Wisconsin.
“I know they’re going to be physical but I think we can fight through it and get a great result,” Krause said.
Minnesota will also pose a threat to the Spartans. The Golden Gophers are led by freshman forward Sydney Squires and sophomore forward Simone Kolander, who each have scored four goals. In this season’s first weekly conference awards, Kolander was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.
Minnesota will enter the game coming off a very challenging non-conference schedule. It has already played two games against current NSCAA Top 25 opponents in No. 5 Florida State and No. 18 Auburn.
MSU freshman midfielder Morgan McKerchie has been an important contributor for the Spartans this year, and she has stepped right into a fair amount of playing time. She believes that Spartans will be prepared for the Big Ten’s opening weekend.
“We just need to come in and play our game,” McKerchie said of MSU’s approach to the conference’s opening weekend. “We’re playing really well as a team right now, and we’re all winning our individual battles. If we all come in ready to fight and with the mindset that we need to be physical, we can be successful.”
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