After a quiet showing from the offense last time out against Iowa, the group stepped up in a big way to down Purdue 3-1 at home over the weekend.
It was not the fastest start for Michigan State though, as Purdue midfielder Nicole Kevdzija blasted in a 15th minute goal over the mits of redshirt senior goalkeeper Lauren Kozal. It was the only goal of the day given up by the United Soccer Coaches All-American.
Shortly after, junior midfielder/defender Justina Gaynor headed in a gorgeous cross from graduate student defender Ruby Diodati to tie things up.
It had been six games since Gaynor had found the back of the net, and she said it felt great to get that monkey off her back.
“It felt awesome. I've been really working for it,” Gaynor said. “I've been putting in extra time outside of practice to really work on some things that I wanted to work on, especially some of that scoring. So, it just felt great that I could contribute to my team in that way today.”
That would be all the scoring until after halftime, but when the next 45 minutes rolled around, the Spartans offense started to pour on the goals.
Just under 10 minutes into the half, sophomore forward Jordyn Wickes joined the header club as she put one of her own in the back of the net off an assist from freshman defender Allie Mairn.
The Spartans would not lead by just one for too long though as senior defender Bria Schrotenboer slammed a free kick in the bottom left of the net to pull the MSU lead to two.
The goal, which ended up being the nail in the coffin, was a long time coming for the former Duke transfer as her last goal in an MSU uniform came in 2019 against Michigan. When she lined up to take the kick, the advice of her teammates rang loudly in the back of her mind.
Graduate student defender Samantha White approached Schrontenboer and told her to hit it low to make it harder on the tall Purdue goalkeeper. Then senior forward Lauren DeBeau offered the same advice: pin the ball in the bottom corner.
"Obviously she (DeBeau) didn't say it like that, but I was like, OK, so I went up there and I kind of just had those two things in the back of my head and executed,” Schrotenboer said. “We work on free kicks all time in practice. Like I said, I don't get in front of goal a lot. So, when I do, I kind of just gotta put it away and finish my chances.”
All season long, Head Coach Jeff Hosler has preached that the team has to do a better job coming out of halftime, and this time around, the team listened.
“We talked about the first fives, so those first five minutes of each half and the last five minutes of each half," Hosler said. "To come out and execute the way we did you know, this is a side with Purdue that looked very different in shape against us than they have against anybody else all year."
“So, to kind of have that surprise produced and for us to respond well and adjust on the fly was great. And then we were very specific about what we had to attack in the second half and did that with a goal, you know, very early," she said.
During the game, MSU wore patches representing the 50th anniversary of Title IX which protects against sex discrimination. Gaynor said it meant a lot to be able to wear that patch.
“It means everything," Gaynor said. For all the people that came before us, all the women that played before us and had to go through what they had to go through to get us here, now that we are here, it just means everything and I'm so grateful and I have so much respect for the women that built this program.
“I'm just very happy and honored to be part of this program and continue to help it grow,” she said.
With the 3-1-win, Michigan State moves to 7-1-3 on the season. MSU will hit the road this week to face fellow seven-win Penn State as well as Maryland this weekend.
Hosler noted that this road trip will not be the easiest, but it will be enjoyable and the opportunities to grow will be there.
“A really big road trip coming up here with Thursday's match at Penn State,” Hosler said. “But at the same time, we're a group that enjoys going on the road together. The chemistry that can be built there allows us to have a singular focus in terms of getting ready for it.”
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