On a beautiful fall day at DeMartin Stadium, the MSU Women’s Soccer team (8-4-1, 1-3-1 Big Ten) was dominated by Iowa’s speed and athleticism (12-2, 4-2 Big Ten), as the Hawkeyes won 3-0. The Lady Spartans were undefeated at DeMartin prior to this matchup, but the Hawkeyes were not intimidated.
This was a wire to wire game as Iowa began the first half in control. Set pieces were a problem for the Spartans as the two goals that occurred in the first half came from corner kicks. The first goal came off a deflection from a corner kick. Iowa’s Isabella Blackman was on top of a deflection and put the ball back in the box for an easy goal for Hawkeye senior Hannah Drkulec.
The second goal of the first half also came off a deflection from a corner kick, as Emma Tokuyama was able to put it in the net to gain a two goal lead. These corner kicks truly deflated the Spartans' confidence.
“We can’t give up two corner kicks at this level. The first one puts us behind and the game was fairly even at that point, giving up a corner kick goal at your home field is unacceptable ... and then giving up the second one when you're chasing the game is the difference.” said MSU Head Coach Tom Saxton.
The second half was more of the same for the Hawkeyes and Spartans. While the Spartans have come back from 2-1 and 1-0 deficits this season, they just could not seem to find a rhythm. Iowa continued to dominate possession. Even though the game was well in hand, Iowa pushed for a third goal and they got it in the 78th minute when Devin Burns scored on a header from an assist by Emma Tokuyama.
One of the key differences between the two squads was the pace the Hawkeyes had. Iowa was all over the field, running up and contesting passes, blowing by defenders, and consistently reached the 50/50 balls before the Spartans could get there.
“They (Iowa) have good team speed and they are a very good team. We had to play better at critical moments.” Saxton said.
The Spartans were also without their star sophomore forward Gia Wahlberg for this matchup, as she went down with an injury against Minnesota. MSU generated chances during the game, but had a tough time finishing those chances without their star. A telling stat of this game was the shots attempted. Iowa had 20 to Michigan State’s six. Eleven of the shots by Iowa were shots on goal to MSU’s one.
“I thought we had our moments … we felt good about the opportunities we created early in the game," said Saxton “Obviously we’d love to have Gia back as soon as possible, but we're not going to put that on the game today.”
MSU has struggled thus far in Big Ten play as their lone win came against Purdue last week, but the Spartans are trying to figure out a way to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“We’re not going to get discouraged from our mission of going to the postseason, we believe one hundred percent we can do that, we have four of our last six at home, so we’ll bounce back.” Saxton said.
In terms of their play, MSU senior defender Madison VanDyke addressed what they need to do to improve for the next game.
“We need to talk with our keeper more and try to fight to win that first 50/50 ball instead of chasing after the second.” VanDyke said.
The Lady Spartans will look to bounce back this Friday when they take on the Northwestern Wildcats (4-6-2, 2-2-1 Big Ten) in Evanston.