This game against Wisconsin might have been the most important game of the season for the Spartans.
Not only was it their final home game, but it was senior day, along with being a must-win game if they wanted to cement a spot in the Big Ten Tournament.
With everything at stake and with the pressure high, MSU came out and played their best game of the season, beating Wisconsin 4-1. With this win the Spartans have taken a firm hold of the eighth and final spot in the Big Ten standings, giving them a great chance to hold that final spot in the tourney.
MSU came out and immediately controlled the pace of the game. It only took seven minutes for the Spartans to score as Olu Ogunwale capitalized off of a bad Wisconsin pass in their own territory and fired a rocket to the right side of the goal to give MSU an early 1-0 lead.
The win puts MSU at 3-6 overall and 2-3 in East Lansing on the season that was shortened to just 10 games.
For a second, it looked like the MSU team that hasn’t been able to hold onto leads in many games this year might show up again, as Wisconsin scored a beautiful goal in the 17th minute off of a free kick sent into the box that set up a header for the equalizer.
After a week of preparation and reflection, MSU knew they couldn’t give up another lead. Instead of faltering and making forced decisions they continued to play their game and it paid off.
In the 26th minute, off a free kick of their own, once again Ogunwale was able to get the ball. This time he passed it to Jack Zugay who fired a shot into the bottom right corner, giving MSU a 2-1 lead.
“Olu was one of the players who set the tone early,” Head Coach Damon Rensing said. “Not just with the goal but he was light on his feet, he was quick, and he was pressing.”
In the 40th minute, MSU was given another chance to widen their lead, this time after a penalty was called inside the Wisconsin box. Will Perkins was able to score on a penalty kick to give MSU a 3-1 lead going into halftime.
The second half had a slower pace. MSU surely didn’t want to give up any counterattacks that would allow Wisconsin to close the gap, but the Spartans still played far from passive in the half.
In the 61st minute, Perkins sent an on-target pass downfield to Greyson Mercer, who hit the crossbar on what would have surely been the goal to put the game out of reach.
Another good sign for MSU came in the 70th minute as Farai Mutatu, who had been injured the past few weeks, subbed in and saw some action.
“You can see the change he makes when he’s on the field, so just seeing him out there was good,” Rensing said.
In the 84th minute, Louis Sala would deliver the final blow as he scored directly off a free kick on the left side of the field, cementing MSU’s 4-1 victory.
In the final minutes, the MSU coaches made a touching gesture by subbing in senior goalie Isaiah Handspike to play the final minutes of the game. He even made a play, stopping a cross that came into the box, in his few minutes of action.
“He shows up to training every day with a smile and works his butt off every day," Sala said. He’s always pushing our teammates and he was ready to go when COVID struck. He pushes the culture forward here."
“He has got such a good, calming influence and puts a lot of hard work in, and the players respect his hard work and his abilities,” Rensing said. “I’m so happy for him. He’ll be successful in life for sure.”
MSU has picked up their play in the latter part of the season, and today the efforts that landed them just short of wins in their last few matches finally materialized into a win. MSU’s regular-season finale will be a rematch against Ohio State, who beat the Spartans, 2-0, earlier this season here in East Lansing.
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