Having to brave an away match against No. 12 Notre Dame, previously unbeaten at Alumni Stadium during the season, the No. 13 MSU men's soccer team could hardly have been blamed if they aimed for a draw. But in the penultimate regular season game, the Spartans uprooted the Fighting Irish, 1-0, as freshman Michael Beckett's timely first career goal gave the Spartans the edge.
“This is a really big win for our guys," head coach Damon Rensing said in a press release "I am happy for them. I thought it was a very even game, a very professional road win for our guys."
The win against Notre Dame was MSU's first since 2010, granting the seniors their first triumph over the Midwest rivals.
As has been the case in recent MSU games, a rugged defensive mentality encapsulated the first half. The two teams collectively combined for five shots in the 45 minutes.
In the second half, however, the defensive gridlock slowly smoothed into attacking chances. Finally, against substitute goalkeeper Ryan Krutz, MSU made headway.
Sophomore forward Ryan Sierakowski collected a ball and slung in a cross to Beckett. The freshman forward razored his header through the air and into the netting, good for the winning goal.
“It was a little combination play with Giuseppe (Barone) and (Brad) Centala," Rensing said in the release. "Then, Giuseppe found Sierakowski, who had a very good ball and finally a great header by Beckett. What a way to get your first college goal for Beckett. Michael is really good in the box. He nearly scored against Northwestern, and he is a handful physically. It gives us some freedom to move Ryan around a little bit. He has been a great addition for us."
With a cogent back line and defensive commitment, MSU was able to safely close out the game. Despite the 8-5 shot disparity in favor of Notre Dame, the Spartans persevered behind the goalkeeping of redshirt-sophomore Jimmy Hague, who gathered his seventh shutout of the season.
With the win, MSU amplified its record against ranked teams to 3-1 on the year. The final game for MSU will be against No. 10 Indiana, with MSU trying to preserve its second-place standing in the Big Ten rankings. If MSU can do so, they will host their first ever Big Ten Tournament game at DeMartin Stadium.
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