Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Women's soccer falls 1-0 in regular season finale as miscues set up Buckeye win

April 3, 2021
<p>Freshman defense Zivana Labovic (20) kicks the ball past an Ohio State player during the game against Ohio State on April 3, 2021, at DeMartin Stadium. The Buckeyes defeated the Spartans, 1-0.</p>

Freshman defense Zivana Labovic (20) kicks the ball past an Ohio State player during the game against Ohio State on April 3, 2021, at DeMartin Stadium. The Buckeyes defeated the Spartans, 1-0.

Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

MSU women's soccer has fought all season long, even if their on-paper record doesn't reflect that.

Even as Ohio State stepped onto the pitch Saturday afternoon, the Spartans didn't wilt. And despite a defensive miscue setting up Buckeye sophomore forward Emma Sears for her 6th goal of the season in the 5th minute of the match, the Spartans battled for the entire 90 minutes in a 1-0 loss to OSU (6-1-3).

With the loss, MSU fell to 1-9-1 on the year and will next play in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday, April 8. MSU will play Rutgers in the opening round of the tournament on Thursday afternoon.

"Yes the goal was probably a miscue, but at that moment we were misaligned tactically. We fixed that in the second half (and) the second part of the first half changed simply because of our organization," Head Coach Tom Saxton said postgame. "A little bit on us as coaches for not anticipating that better. … What we were really missing right now is somebody to just stick the ball across the line."

MSU was without star forward and junior Gia Wahlberg, who has two of MSU's 10 goals on the year.

Her absence for the second straight game was noticeable. MSU wasn't able to convert on multiple attempts early and late in the game to find an equalizer.

MSU's best chance came in the 78th minute when senior midfielder Danielle Stephan setup junior forward Miranda Hart for two shots on the right side of the net, but Hart wasn't able to poke one past Buckeye keeper Bailey Kolinski, who had three saves in net for OSU.

"We’ve been a better defensive team the last few weeks honestly," Saxton said. "(We) keep control of the game for the most part, but we still are missing those moments in the attack, and we have to continue to emphasize that."

Emotional senior day for 2021 class

Stephan walked on and off the pitch on Saturday brimming with emotion.

It was her class' senior day at DeMartin Stadium — along with seniors Gabriala Jodzis, Athena Biondi, Alex Thomas, Devin Jaqua and Michelle Herring.

Five of the six started Saturday against the Buckeyes, while Jaqua watched from the sidelines because of her decision to opt out of the shortened season.

"The senior class, all of my best friends, you know," Stephan said. "But it's been emotionally, mentally, physically exhausting this last year just with COVID and everything. But we’ve really prevailed, and I have nothing but pride in the people I have around me, and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anybody else."

MSU's senior class has been a productive one. Stephan is top 10 in the Big Ten with four assists on the year and Biondi, Herring and Thomas have all been keys to what has pushed MSU through a weird season.

“Let me tell you, losing is not easy," Stephan said. "I have been so impressed with the way that we have been able to bounce back and keep our chins up and our spirits high for every single game. We have been in just about every single game. ... Overall, our energy and the way we hold each other accountable and lift each other up is just amazing to me, especially this season. It’s been incredibly important for us to do that."

MSU's senior class has not gone without its accomplishments during their years with the program. During their four years, the six seniors have played a role in 20 wins.

"I’m very proud of our seniors and the way they represent our program all these years," Saxton said. "They are true student-athletes. And today, we had a unique opportunity that we could start all of them and they came out and played despite giving up kind of a crappy goal. The team has done what they’ve done the last three weeks — they’ve fought and stayed in every game, and so It has been a strange year."

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