Positivity has re-entered the veins of the women’s soccer program, and this optimism could not have come at a better time.
MSU (7-5-1 overall, 1-5-1 Big Ten) capped its weekend with a 3-1 victory over reigning Big Ten champion Nebraska on Sunday. The Spartans picked up a much-needed win and critical points in the conference standings, but they also rediscovered their offensive identity.
The team’s three goals were the most it has scored in a game since a Sep. 7 victory over Western Michigan. Entering the Nebraska game, MSU managed only two goals in six conference games.
The Spartans were in a deep hole entering the weekend, but with the win, they started shoveling themselves out.
“I think everyone dug a little deeper,” redshirt junior defender Mary Kathryn Fiebernitz said. “They got through, whether it was an injury, sore legs, or just the mental beat down of the losing streak, and we we were able to dig deeper and put the ball in the back of the net and win the game.”
The emotional and mental state of the team had taken some tough hits following a string of discouraging losses, but head coach Tom Saxton preached relaxation and a short-term memory to the team.
“Tom told us all to relax and not think about it too much and just go out there and try to have fun,” senior midfielder Megan Marsack said. “We went out there and forgot about all of the other stuff and just played like we used to.”
Saxton has broken the season into thirds, and he uses the team’s record and quality of play as a measuring stick at the end of each third.
“We’re in in the final third,” Saxton said. “We had a great first third of the season, tough middle third, and now we’re in the final third. That was a good start to the final third.”
Freshman forward Jamie Cheslik was a standout on Sunday, and she was a factor in each of MSU’s goals. She set up the first penalty kick goal with a gutsy effort in the Nebraska box, assisted Marsack’s goal, and finally drilled a rocket past the keeper the team’s third goal of the game.
Cheslik’s hard work earned her a conference accolade, as she was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week following her performance.
Cheslik leads MSU with seven goals and 16 points, and she is also tied for sixth in conference for total goals scored. Her offensive impact on Sunday may also help the team in the long term, especially when it comes to tiebreakers.
“I think it’s really going to help us when it come to goals-for,” Cheslik said. “Building up goals is a good thing. We don’t want to get left out of the postseason because of something like that. Scoring that many goals in one game helps us alot.”
In the short term, however, MSU has the opportunity to build upon a refreshing victory. Spirits are higher than they have been in a few weeks, and it will be important for the Spartans to ride their positivity to some big wins down the final stretch of the year.
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