Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Lauren Kozal: MSU women soccer's secret weapon

September 9, 2021
<p>Then-Michigan State sophomore Lauren Kozal (00) prepares to return the ball in the Spartans&#x27; loss to University of Minnesota on Mar. 1, 2021.</p>

Then-Michigan State sophomore Lauren Kozal (00) prepares to return the ball in the Spartans' loss to University of Minnesota on Mar. 1, 2021.

Photo by Rahmya Trewern | The State News

With double zeros between the posts, this season's secret weapon is in play for Michigan State women's soccer.

As the last line of defense, MSU redshirt junior goalkeeper Lauren Kozal awaits incoming shots like a trap awaiting a burglar. From Ada, Michigan, Kozal has kept her head high and brought her all to the DeMartin field and helped maintain an undefeated season for her squad.

During this past Thursday's game against Bowling Green State University, or BGSU, Kozal was fearless and had a perfect game up until the final two minutes when she let in a shot from BGSU sophomore midfielder Maya Dean. This resulted in back-to-back overtime ending in a draw for the second game in a row. 

“We knew Bowling Green's game plan coming in and it was well scouted," Kozal said. "They are a good and solid team coming forward, very aggressive, and we did well handling it up until the last spit, so it was a little frustrating and a little heartbreaking, but we pushed through in overtime and kept it clean back there."

Since the start of their season against Detroit Mercy, Kozal has only let two goals find the back of the net. Prior to last week's matchup with Florida Atlantic, she had a three-game shutout streak.   

“We knew they would come out flying, so we had to stay composed, but match their intensity and play the ball around them so we were ready to deal with the overtimes,” Kozal said.

As Michigan State Head Coach Jeff Hosler begins his first season with Michigan State, he will continue to have Kozal defending between the poles. 

“Lauren was brilliant today," Hosler said. "She either got a punch to or caught everything that was served in, I think one time she even caught the ball and one of our players at the same time. It gives us a lot of confidence when she is in goal and allows our backs to take a little bit of risk too."

While Kozal is credited as the glue that holds the team together, she also has to rely on her teammates too. If her defense leaves her all alone on a break by the opposing team, there's only so much she can do. So far, the team has been in sync the whole way.

“I am always relying on my team to keep me together pushing each other everyday at practice, everyday on our off-day and we keep pushing each other through everything,” Kozal said.

While the last two games may leave a sour taste in their mouth with victory within grasp and it being taken away, there's a lot of faith in double-zero behind the poles.

“Today was a tough one because the goalie can see there is a moment when she normally comes forward and there is just a little miscommunication, but I am really excited about the way Lauren has been performing and I know she will continue to moving through the season,” Hosler said.

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