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Time running out for women's soccer to qualify for postseason

October 21, 2014
<p>Junior midfielder Sarah Kovan runs from Ohio State forward Nichelle Prince on Oct. 16, 2014, at the DeMartin Soccer Stadium at Old College Field. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes, 2-1. Jessalyn Tamez/The State News </p>

Junior midfielder Sarah Kovan runs from Ohio State forward Nichelle Prince on Oct. 16, 2014, at the DeMartin Soccer Stadium at Old College Field. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes, 2-1. Jessalyn Tamez/The State News

Photo by Jessalyn Tamez | The State News

MSU (9-6-1 overall, 3-6-1 Big Ten) is currently 10th in  Big Ten standings, and with three games left, the Spartans are faced with must-win conference games if they hope to make the Big Ten Tournament.

The top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament, so there is certainly pressure to win out. MSU has missed out on the postseason the past two years, and if it wants to end that drought, it will have to defeat its remaining opponents on the road.

MSU will visit Illinois, Northwestern and Indiana to close its season.

Illinois is currently one game ahead of MSU in the conference standings, so a win against the Fighting Illini would be instrumental in moving up in the standings.

Northwestern has two conference wins while Indiana has one. A victory against either team would distance the Spartans from the lower tier of teams, but winning both would be most beneficial.

MSU recently saw a three-game winning streak come to an end after a loss to Big Ten and national powerhouse Penn State , but head coach Tom Saxton expects his team to rebound.

“If anybody’s got their head down, we’ll be able to certainly get them on the right page,” Saxton said. “We’ve got three games to play, and I think they’re all very winnable games. We’ve been a good road team this year, and you know what, it’ll probably take at least two (wins). ... We’re not afraid of any game.”

The players are optimistic about their chances to pick up crucial victories, and senior midfielder Megan Marsack believes that the team has “a good chance to come out with a win” against the remaining opponents.

Although MSU will not be in the friendly confines of DeMartin Stadium, Saxton believes his team will fare just fine on the road. He said he looks forward to a Friday night contest in Champaign, Ill. this weekend.

“I think we’ve been a really good road team this year,” Saxton said. “The one thing I do like about it, especially on the Friday game, is that we get to be professional soccer players and spend the day preparing for the game as opposed to coming from class. That does make a difference.”

The Spartans are 4-2-1 on the road this season, and the two losses to Rutgers and Michigan both came from allowing game-winning goals with under two minutes remaining in regulation.

MSU checks in at No. 53 on the Women’s Soccer RPI rankings, a number that could seemingly only go up if the Spartans find a way to win a few more games this year. With 64 teams selected for the NCAA Women’s Soccer Division I Championship, MSU’s RPI may be an important factor down the stretch.

As a member of the challenging Big Ten, MSU has played a difficult schedule this year. It was only heightened by the arrival of two quality soccer programs in Maryland and Rutgers, and despite some disappointing losses along the way, Saxton is pleased with where this team sits.

“I know that the veterans understand that we still have a great chance,” Saxton said. “When I looked at the difficulty of our schedule at the beginning of the year, going into the last couple weekends to have a chance to get in the postseason, I’ll take it.”

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