Saturday, September 26, 2020

Michigan State women's soccer picks up first Big Ten win

September 30, 2019

On a rainy Sunday afternoon in East Lansing, Michigan State women’s soccer (8-3-0, 1-2-0) came in seeking their first win in Big Ten play of the season against Purdue (6-4-1, 2-2-0) at DeMartin Stadium. They were able to do just that in a defensive battle, staying undefeated at home and fending off the Boilermakers 2-0.

Purdue came into the game tied with Rutgers for the Big Ten lead in shutouts this season with five, so it was a crucial game for the Spartan offense on a day where the field conditions left a lot to be desired. Leading the offense this year has been sophomore forward Gia Wahlberg, who came into the game leading the Big Ten with eight goals.

Even though the rain didn’t let up over the course of the game, head coach Tom Saxton didn’t think it was that big of a factor.

“I think the team’s attitude about dealing with the conditions was fantastic,” Saxton said. “I think playing the game in the rain can actually be an enjoyable experience, and you could see that out of a lot of them today. They really excelled.”

The ball was moving slow in the first half as the Spartans looked to apply pressure early. Ten minutes in, junior midfielder Danielle Stephan came up with a huge blocked shot that resulted in the green and white pushing the pace upfield.

Sophomore forward Camryn Evans took control of the ball and took on three Purdue defenders before dishing it off to freshman forward Paige Webber, who buried her fourth goal of the season to give Michigan State a 1-0 lead.

The two teams exchanged quality scoring chances for the remainder of the half, but neither team could generate shots on net, either having their shot go wide or getting blocked by the defender.

Purdue controlled the pace of the game as the second half got underway, getting two shots on goal within the first seven minutes. At the 26 minute mark, the Spartans countered when Evans made another nice pass to set up Stephan, but her shot was rejected by Purdue’s goalkeeper, sophomore Marisa Bova.

With 11 minutes remaining in the half, Wahlberg continued her dominance and put home her ninth goal of the season, coming up the right side of the field and losing her defender to put the green and white up 2-0.

Back and forth play continued as time winded down, and the Spartans were able to shut out Purdue, getting that elusive first Big Ten victory. Michigan State found a way to put up two goals against the co-Big Ten leader in shutouts, a confidence booster for the offense moving forward.

“We were on a mission today,” Saxton said. “The mindset this morning was fantastic coming in, and we just wanted to attack. Purdue is a very good team, and we had our scary moments, but we made good with our chances, which is what counts in this game.”

The Spartans will look to carry momentum into their next matchup Oct. 3, when they travel to Minnesota to face the Golden Gophers. Game time is set for 8 p.m.

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