MSU women’s soccer had a roller coaster year, and when the ride was finally over, the Spartans came up short of their goals.
MSU’s season was defined by streaks, as the team started the year with six straight victories. Upon entering conference play, MSU dropped five of six games, before winning another three straight games.
The wins kept the Spartans in the discussion for the postseason, but after losing the last four games of the season, MSU found itself out of the Big Ten Tournament for the third year in a row.
When the ups and downs concluded, the Spartans finished with a 9-9-1 overall record.
“I think we’re all disappointed,” head coach Tom Saxton said. “We were still in good position going into the last few weekends, but every other team was fighting for their lives, too.”
Saxton called the ending to this year a “microcosm of the season,” in that the team’s postseason dreams were decided in the final third of the year.
MSU lost games to Illinois and Northwestern, both teams that ended up playing their way into the the tournament.
“Those games were playoff games. We knew they were big games at the time,” Saxton said.
The team did not manage to score a single goal in the final four games. Scoring goals had been a recurring problem for the team all year long, and when it mattered most, MSU was unable to give itself a chance to win.
“(Our biggest problem was) just getting the job done in the box, at both ends,” Saxton said. “We were pretty good defensively, although we did make some mistakes from time to time. We just didn’t find the other end of serves sometimes. We were missing the hunger and desire to score goals in the box.”
Despite a lackluster finish, Saxton referred to the 2014 team as “one of my favorites.” Saxton has been at the helm of the women’s soccer program for 24 years, so this year’s version definitely stood out according to him.
Seniors Courtney Clem , Nicole Caruso , Megan Marsack , and Paige Wester will be leaving the program, as well as redshirt juniors Rachel Van Poppelen and Courtney Hammer . Saxton believes that this group has had a positive impact on the program.
“I was really pleased with how the seniors improved the culture throughout their careers,” Saxton said. “Behind the scenes, the group did a really good job.”
Saxton was also impressed with the way his team handled playing time, as MSU had a larger roster than in recent years. Not everyone was able to play the amount of time they perhaps would have hoped, but nobody raised any issues. The “quality of people” was instrumental in avoiding “unnecessary drama,” Saxton said.
Although another season has ended for MSU, the Spartans will have eight months in the offseason to fix some of this year’s flaws, develop the younger talent on the roster and usher in a new freshman class. It will be an important time to prepare for the thrill ride that follows every fall and an opportunity to rebuild physically to compete in the demanding Big Ten Conference.