The seventh seeded men’s soccer team will look to continue their postseason run as they take on No. 2 seeded Indiana in the Elite Eight tonight in Bloomington, Indiana at 7 p.m.
The 17-0-5 Hoosiers, like the Spartans, had a first round bye and beat Old Dominion in the second round, 3-0, and beat New Hampshire in the Sweet 16, 2-1.
“It’s kind of bittersweet playing Indiana because you really respect them, and you know that you’re going to get one Big Ten team in the College Cup,” head coach Damon Rensing said on Tuesday during his weekly press conference. “Both these teams are capable, I think, of being a Final Four caliber team.”
What makes both these teams Final Four caliber is their respective defenses, as MSU ranks 10th in the nation in team goals against with .607 goals per game, while Indiana is top in the nation in with .215 goals allowed per game and only allowing five goals throughout the entire season.
One of those goals was scored by the Spartans in their 1-1 tie against the Hoosiers on their regular season finale on Oct. 29.
“We know we can score on them,” forward and leading goal scorer Ryan Sierakowski said.
Playing against a top ranked defense that includes Jimmy Fiscus and Michael Wetungu day in and day out in practice, gives attackers like Sierakowski good preparation for teams like Indiana.
“Just knowing I’m going against one of the best defenders in the nation, it’s just confidence going into the next game,” Sierakowski said. “It’s awesome. I wouldn’t want to play against anyone else.”
Rensing said the game against IU was a “tale of two halves” with Indiana scoring its lone goal in the first half on nine shots, while MSU only had four shots and no goals. The Spartans would then turn it around and score their lone goal in the second half. This is something Rensing doesn’t expect to happen Friday night.
“When you got two good teams, nobody’s just going to come and dominate for 90 minutes,” Rensing said. “There’s going to be ups and flows and the team that’s going to manage it the best will be successful.”
Rensing said “there’s some mental tests” for his squad, as Indiana isn’t a team to give their opponent multiple chances to score.
“You’re going to get one, two, maybe three chances, and you gonna have to make the most of it,” Rensing said. “Goals may be hard to come by, but even if it was 1-1, it was a really entertaining, attacking game and I think you’ll see something similar (Friday night).”
With Sierakowski and forward DeJuan Jones leading the offensive attack for the Spartans, Indiana has a plethora of options ranging from forward Mason Toye, midfielder/forward Cory Thomas and defenseman Andrew Gutman who lead the 10th ranked offense in the nation with 2.14 goals per game.
But even with a tough task ahead on both sides of the ball, Rensing said both squads have a chance to “rectify” Oct. 29’s 1-1 tie.
“It’ll be a little harder for us, because I think they’ll have a good crowd at their home,” Rensing said. “But we’ve got good leadership, and I like the way our guys our playing right now. It’ll be a 2-1 game, I just hope we got the two.”
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