Spartan Stadium and the Breslin Center are accustomed to playing under not only the spotlight, but also the lights that oversee the players and crowds of the respected spectacles.
However, one Spartan team hasn’t played under the lights at their home field. That is, until this past Friday night.
The men’s soccer team played under the lights for the first time in the program’s history, at DeMartin Stadium in front of a home attendance record breaking crowd of 3,515 fans, with some fans spilling over to the bleachers of Secchia Softball Stadium. The Spartans beat the Dartmouth Big Green, 1-0.
“We’ve been talking about getting lights for years now, and being the first team to do it, it’s awesome, and we want to do it as much as possible,” forward Ryan Sierakowski said.
Playing under the lights of DeMartin Stadium, is something players and coaches have been asking for awhile.
“I’ve been in this program, basically for the last 25 years and we’ve always envisioned how cool this place would be and this is one of the best settings in college soccer,” head coach DamonRensing said. “You throw lights in it, it’s even more special.”
Rensing said as the night got longer, the crowd became more energetic and was “unbelievable.”
“I thought the crowd was more electric, more loud and more vocal, our guys, the pace of play was good and they were excited,” Rensing said. “I thought this was a good precursor to show what some night games can really do.”
Forward DeJuan Jones, who scored his first goal of the season Friday night, said playing during the night brings out more emotion and energy then during the day.
“During the national anthem, you just look into the crowd and you see all these faces, it’s tough but you just have to make sure to stay focused, because if you start thinking about the crowd and other things you’re not as focused, you don’t play as well,” Jones said. “
Goalie Jimmy Hague, said he agreed with Jones and playing under the lights brings a new “atmosphere.”
“The game becomes much quicker, more intense and the lights definitely help the game in a positive way,” Hague, who has 12 saves this season and four shutout wins, said.
The game under the lights on Friday night improved the Spartans to 3-0 on the season, shutting out each Dartmouth, SIUE-Edwardsville and Saint Louis University.
The Spartans continued their spring of shutouts, after beating Cleveland State 1-0 on Labor Day. The four consecutive shutouts to start the season is the first time since the 1968 season, when MSU were National Co-Champions with Maryland.
Sierakowski said they’re still getting the “rust out” offensively, from not playing matches since the spring, but have the weapons to be a good offensive team.
“We show you guys that, we have the quality,” Sierakowski said. “It’s just being sharp in the final third and executing.”
Rensing said the early success has been because of good ball control and consistently being “on the ball a lot.”
To continue this success, Rensing said he told his team they have to “go out and earn it everyday” and isn’t too concerned about being ranked No. 13 in the country.
“Really, what we’re concerned about, is getting ourselves ready for the Big Ten, do well in the Big Ten conference and if that sets us up for the NCAA Tournament, being ranked there,” Rensing said. “We’d rather see where we’re ranked at the end of the year then now.”
Jones said the team needs to stay focused if they’re going to continue their early success and possibly get more games under the lights.
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“If you’re winning, this stuff will happen so we just want to keep winning and keep the winning atmosphere and hopefully keep getting the fans out here to pump us up and help us out and help us win games like these,” Jones said.
The Spartans will start Big Ten play this Friday night at 7:00 p.m., as they travel to Piscataway, New Jersey to face the 1-2-1 Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
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