Monday, September 20, 2021

Chemistry and defense credited for men's soccer's hot start

September 28, 2017
Red-shirt sophomore defender Luke Menne (24) carries the Big Bear Trophy off of the field after the game against the University of Michigan on Sept. 17, 2017 at U-M Soccer Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines, 1-0.
Red-shirt sophomore defender Luke Menne (24) carries the Big Bear Trophy off of the field after the game against the University of Michigan on Sept. 17, 2017 at U-M Soccer Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines, 1-0. —
Photo by Jon Famurewa | The State News

The No. 4 MSU men’s soccer team is off to a hot start to the season, having a 7-0-1 record, which makes them the first undefeated Spartan team this far into the season since the 1968 team, even though they fell short to starting 8-0-0 like the 1968 team did all those years ago. Editor's Note: at time of publication the Spartan record was 7-0-1. They have since lost to Akron 4-1 and their record is now 7-1-1.

Note, the 1968 team ended up being co-national champions with the Spartans most recent opponent, the Maryland Terrapins.

The No. 4 Spartans are built off the motto “Defend DeMartin,” meaning protecting their home turf and having a reputation of stellar defense.

That stellar defense, involves defensemen Jimmy Fiscus and Michael Wetungu leading the charge with getting help from several midfielders including John Freitag, while only losing one guy on that backline, Dewey Lewis.

“It’s a special group of guys,” senior defenseman Jimmy Fiscus said. “We just pride ourselves defending, especially, but it’s not just the back four, it’s everybody, it’s the two midfielders in front of us and the four guys in front of them. That’s all that contribute to our success in the back.”

Fiscus said this team has “good chemistry” but the backline is one of the top in country.

“The backline is willing to fight to be the best backline in the country,” Fiscus said.

Goalkeeper Jimmy Hague is in prime view of that back four, and has only let up one goal all season himself, giving him seven shutouts on the year so far.

“Everybody’s very solid this year and we’re all working together,” Hague said. “We’re all really close, so I think that helps. It’s just a group effort.”

In that group effort, the offensive side of the game comes into play.

The leading goal scorer for the Spartans is forward DeJuan Jones with four goals, who also leads the team in points with nine and has only started for the Spartans in their last three games.

However outside of Jones, not one Spartan has more than one goal on the season.

As a team, the Spartans have only scored nine goals in eight games so far, which head coach Damon Rensing said will change eventually, especially after getting six shots on goal against No. 3 Maryland.

“I think we create this many chances, we’re going to score some goals,” Rensing said. “It will come.”

Forward Ryan Sierakowski said the team is confident in creating chances and converting on those chances down the line.

Against the No. 3 Terps, the Spartans had six shots on goal with a majority of them missing by mere inches.

“We just clean that up and we’re confident they’re going to keep coming,” Sierakowski said. “It’s just a matter of executing.”

In the Spartans last three games, they played against ranked opponents according to the NCAA: then-No. 19 Bowling Green, then-No. 18 Michigan and No. 3 Maryland, coming out with two wins against BGSU and U-M and tying the Terps.

“Each team we played had a different style, but were obviously quality teams,” Sierakowski said. “Getting results against those type of teams just shows that we can compete against anyone.”

Fiscus echoed Sierakowski, saying having these types of results against three ranked teams in three straight games is “a self esteem booster” and good preparation for Big Ten games throughout the rest of the season.

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“All Big Ten games are going to be hard like that (stretch), whether they’re ranked top 10 or not even ranked at all, all Big Ten teams are going to be like that,” Fiscus said. “I think it’s a good challenge for us at first and we came out where we want to be.”

*Since this publication went to print the Spartans lost 4-1 to Akron, for more details click here* 

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