After defeating Oakland 1-0 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday, the men’s soccer team finds themselves in the Sweet Sixteen for the third time since 2010.
Before 2010, the Spartans’ last appearance in the Sweet Sixteen was in 1968 , when MSU ultimately went on to share a co-championship with Maryland.
“I think you have to walk before you can run, so to speak,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “You can’t talk about making deep runs in the tournament until you get to the tournament, and if you look at the support we’ve gotten in the men’s soccer program over the last decade or so through President (Lou Anna K. Simon), (Athletics Director) Mark Hollis (and Senior Associate Athletic Director) Shelley Appelbaum , we’ve got great support. ... They’re allowing our student athletes to put themselves in those types of positions.”
From 2010 to 2014, the Spartans have been to the tournament in four out of the five seasons, only falling short in 2011. In those four appearances, MSU made it to at least the second round of the tournament.
“Once you start to get in that tournament ... you can see that there’s a chance to move further. ... The more you play in these types of games the more you know that you can do it,” Rensing said.
In 2010, the Spartans went 13-7-2 during the regular season and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen before ultimately falling to North Carolina in penalty kicks.
2011 was a down year for the team. The Spartans went 7-8-4 in the regular season and did not earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
2012 was a big year for the team, as it served as a program builder. Proving 2011 was a fluke, the team went 12-10-1 overall and won its first round game over Cleveland State 2-1 before losing 3-0 to Notre Dame in the second round.
2013 was a breakthrough year for the team as it saw them go on to a 14-6-3 record overall, setting the school record for most wins in a season. The Spartans earned the No. 11-seed in the NCAA t\Tournament, giving the team a first round bye.
The Spartans advanced to the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament, the program’s first appearance in the Elite Eight since 1968.
Now the team finds themselves in familiar territory. With a current record of 12-4-5 overall , a No. 3-seed, and a Sweet Sixteen showdown with Washington this upcoming Sunday , the team can break the record it set last year if it continues to win.
Despite this opportunity, Rensing wants to take it one game at a time and won’t consider his team a national championship threat until they make it to the Final Four.
"(You start thinking about the possibility of winning it all) when you’re in the Final Four, which we are a long ways away from,” Rensing said. “We will think about winning the (Washington game) on Sunday.”