The men’s soccer team is moving on from sweetness to eliteness, as the Spartans beat Western Michigan in the Sweet 16 Saturday night, 2-1, and will advance to the Elite Eight to face the No. 2 seed Indiana Hoosiers. This is MSU's third Elite Eight appearance in the nine years head coach Damon Rensing has been at the helm.
Rensing said he doesn’t think he can be more proud of his team tonight, especially in the conditions they played in.
“it was an emotional game,” Rensing said. “I thought we had the combination of playing good soccer along with dealing with a competitive, emotional environment. You got to be able to play on that edge and still execute.”
The Broncos got off to an early 1-0 lead in the 25th minute thanks to midfielder Pepe Martinez-Bertrand.
Rensing said even down a goal, his team “stuck together and found a way to win a game.”
The Spartans won Saturday night’s game by scoring a goal in the 43rd minute, courtesy of forward Hunter Barone, to give the Spartans a 1-1 tie going into the half.
“I remember when I was on the field, I was thinking we got to get one before halftime and change the momentum of the game,” Barone said. “I think even leading up to their goal, they had a lot of momentum. Obviously after they scored, it kind of shifted and them having such a big crowd here today too.”
Barone said his goal late in the first half got Spartan fans into the game, and gave the Spartans momentum and confidence going into the second half.
The momentum led to MSU’s second goal from the feet of defenseman Jimmy Fiscus, his second goal of the season, and a celebration that also reflected the intensity of the game.
Fiscus and the rest of Rensing’s squad would hold out to beat the Broncos, after fighting to keep Western out of the net in the final seconds of the game.
“It’s nerve racking, but I think just to kind of commend our guys, I think everybody put their body on the line and you can see how hard our guys were working to get everything out of the box and protect our goalie,” Fiscus said. “It just shows the willingness and competitiveness of our team.”
The Spartans will play the Hoosiers in the Elite Eight, after Indiana beat New Hampshire Saturday night, 2-1. The Elite Eight matchup will be played in Bloomington, Indiana on Friday at 7 pm.
MSU tied 1-1 with Indiana in its regular season finale back on Oct. 29 at DeMartin Stadium.
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