For the first time in Michigan State Head Coach Jeff Hosler’s tenure at Michigan State, the MSU women’s soccer team did not win. They didn’t lose either.
MSU (3-0-1) drew Florida Atlantic University (1-2-1) 1-1 in their first matchup against an out-of-state school this season. The Spartans outshot the Owls 26-5 but ended their streak of three consecutive clean sheets in a 120-minute affair that only grew in suspense as the clock ticked on and MSU mounted furious attack after furious attack in the waning minutes of the match.
Hosler lauded FAU Head Coach Patrick Baker’s side for presenting a strong, physical attack and indicated they’re far better than their record suggests. Regardless, he lamented the opportunities left on the table by the Spartans.
“We throw a lot of information at our players in preparation, out of the respect we have for FAU,” he said. “(It’s) difficult to not get a result for us today.”
It didn’t take long for the Spartans to get on the board with graduate transfer forward Ava Cook scoring off the left post following an assist from junior forward Lauren DeBeau (7). Cook notched her team-leading third goal of the season while crediting the midfielder presence and vision of seniors Abby Gardiner and Samantha Sklarski and graduate Bella Jodzis as being a key component to MSU’s only goal of the game.
“They work their butts off to make us look pretty,” she said.
While MSU dominated possession for most of the first period, FAU managed some surges into Spartan territory late in the half but rarely put shots on the net. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Lauren Kozal played admirably and yet, MSU let up their first goal of the season after a foul on DeBeau led to a successful penalty kick from graduate forward Bri Austin to even the match 1-1 25 minutes into the match.
Coming out of the half, MSU aggressively moved down the field with Cook driving across the side of the pitch and passing to senior forward Camryn Evans. Evans followed with an early cross to the right side of FAU’s goal that Jodzis was only a couple steps behind, missing what would’ve been an excellent shot on goal.
It was yet another opportunity the Spartans failed to capitalize on the day.
“We had a couple of really good opportunities that never materialized because we just missed an open player and we missed an open pass, took a bad touch,” Hosler said. “You put the ball in the back of the net one more time before the penalty decision, it’s a totally different game.”
Fifty-five minutes into the match, FAU threatened with a low center dart from charging senior forward Miracle Porter but, as she’s done all season, Kozal made the save, rising to the occasion simultaneously with the sound of 322 spectators at DeMartin Stadium. It was a chance due to what Hosler called a “little bit of panic” as the Spartans relinquished their stranglehold on possession for the first time all game.
“We got a little loose, the game got stretched,” he said of the second half, a factor that helped the Owls become a more formidable offensive presence as the match went on.
MSU managed to regain their footing, taking it to the Owls to the tune of 11 shots but after an imperfect first period, FAU’s senior goalkeeper Amit Cohen showcased her prowess in the net, racking up four of her 10 total saves.
The Spartans notched three desperate shots in the final two minutes, including a long, looping kick from Jodzis that curved just over the crossbar. But as the final horn blew, the match remained deadlocked 1-1. Sudden death overtime had arrived.
Another first in his tenure at MSU, Hosler eschewed the suspenseful circumstances and said he used the five-minute break to refocus his players on the tactics that got them there. He added his approval of the Spartan’s fitness level, saying they passed the physical test of overtime with “flying colors.”
FAU staved off attack after attack in the first OT period, digging their heels in and slowing the pace upon regaining possession. Sophomore forward and midfielder Ellie Rogers emerged for her biggest moment all game and notched one shot attempt out of the Spartan’s five total from the first ten minutes. While unsuccessful, the second overtime period was due to begin and the Spartans had flipped the switch, finding the discipline to revert back to what worked in the first period.
However, the Spartans failed to convert on any of their chances. Cohen locked down the net as the Owls put up zero shots and the Spartans only put up two shots in the second overtime period as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Cook said she thought FAU gave MSU everything they had. DeBeau agreed and added praise for both sides.
“By far our best matchup this season,” she said. “I’m just proud of the girls trusting each other and playing together.”
While not a true defeat, Hosler said the Spartan’s finishing has to be better when they manage to jump out to a hot start and create as many chances as they did. He admitted the transition between him and former coach Tom Saxton requires patience as MSU previously did not field a team on the forefront of attacking soccer.
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“We all learn how to have that winner’s mentality and capitalize when momentum’s going our way,” Hosler said. "It’s a little bit of a stinger to come out of this with a draw. But there’s a lot to build on.”
The Spartans take on Bowling Green at DeMartin Stadium on Thursday at 7 p.m. The match will be broadcast on BTN+.
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