MSU will close out its home schedule this weekend, and with matchups against Ohio State and Penn State looming, the Spartans could potentially be involved in two more entertaining college soccer contests.
Ohio State (5-7-2 overall , 2-4-2 Big Ten ) appears to be beatable and, like the Spartans, has struggled a bit within the conference. The Buckeyes, who are currently one point ahead of MSU (8-5-1 overall , 2-5-1 Big Ten ) in the Big Ten standings, will visit DeMartin Stadium on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.
OSU has tied its last two games against Minnesota and Maryland , and the Buckeyes will be searching for a win.
OSU’s defense has stumbled in league play, allowing the second highest number of goals to its conference opponents (18).
MSU’s offense showed signs of life over the past two games, scoring five goals totals in the two wins. Freshman forward continues to lead the way, and she has now increased her season goal total to eight.
Redshirt junior and junior have also scored in the last two games, providing a veteran offensive spark for the team.
“We feel like we’ve broken through,” head coach Tom Saxton said. “We’re concentrating more on our attack. I do like the matchup of our personality players like Jamie (Cheslik) and Paige (Wester) against (Ohio State’s) back line.”
MSU will host Penn State (12-2 overall , 7-1 Big Ten ) at 1 p.m. on Sunday , and there is little doubt that the Nittany Lions will be a challenging opponent. PSU is currently ranked seventh in the NSCAA Women’s Soccer RPI Poll.
MSU will have more than two days to recover from Thursday’s game and prepare for PSU. The extra rest should be beneficial, Saxton said.
“We’re happy to have an extra day off between games,” Saxton said. “We’re heading into this final stretch where we have five games in 15 days. Four of the five teams we play are in the bottom half of the standings, so there are opportunities for us. Everybody is fighting and clawing to move up in time for the tournament. We’ll all be playing with a sense of urgency.”
PSU dropped its last game to then-No. 20 Rutgers, but before the loss, the team ripped off nine straight wins. The Nittany Lions have outscored their conference opponents, 18-4.
Since women’s soccer became a recognized conference sport in 1994, PSU has posted an .895 winning percentage against Big Ten opponents. The Nittany Lions have also won 15 regular season conference titles since 1994, 12 more than Minnesota, the next closest team.
Like the Spartans, PSU features a talented freshman scorer in Frannie Crouse , who leads the team with seven goals and 15 points. Junior forward Mallory Weber is also an impact player, and she has brought balance to the PSU offense, recording five goals and five assists this year.
Sunday will be MSU’s final home game of the year, meaning that it will also be the last time MSU’s seniors take the field at DeMartin Stadium. Emotions will run high for the Spartans, but Saxton believes that his team will have to stay relaxed.
“We need to stay confident and loose,” Saxton said. “That’s how we’ve approached the last few games. ... I don’t think we’ve ever lost our confidence.”