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From rival to rising star: Owen Finnerty a major key to MSU's 2022 success

October 18, 2022
MSU men's soccer senior goalkeeper Owen Finnerty poses with a soccer ball at DeMartin field on Oct. 5, 2022.
Photo by Sonya Barlow | The State News

Michigan State men’s soccer currently stands at No. 2 in the Big Ten. Much of that success can be attributed to the addition of senior goalkeeper Owen Finnerty to the team.

Finnerty played for Michigan the past three years. While in Ann Arbor he started in five games during the 2021 season, 10 in 2020 and eight in 2019 as a freshman. 

Finnerty earned eight shutouts and played just over 2,012 minutes over three years. He allowed 22 total goals and made 50 saves.

The million dollar question: Why transfer to the rival school for his senior season?

While Finnerty enjoyed his time at Michigan, he ultimately decided to make a change and put himself in a better position on the field. Finnerty transferred in January, allowing himself the spring semester to get acclimated and comfortable with the program.

“Last year a couple of our coaches were leaving, a lot of guys were leaving," Finnerty said. "Also, my junior year I didn’t get the time that I really wanted. I split time with another guy and that’s how the game works. Sometimes you gotta make a move or make an adjustment and that’s what was best for me at the time.”

Since making the switch to the green and white, Finnerty’s started in all 12 games this season so far. While playing over 1,065 minutes, he's made 54 total saves and has allowed 21 goals this season. Finnerty also earned two shutouts, coming in back-to-back home games versus Michigan and Wisconsin. 

“His mentality is good, he's always ready to go, he's always ready to learn,” Head Coach Damon Rensing said. “He’s a competitive person so he doesn’t assume that’s his position, he’ll stay after and do extra work. He does all the little things outside of practice to try to maintain that spot.”

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Transfer process 

Finnerty isn’t the average transfer. Coming from a school down the road, he had plenty of experience on the other end of the field while facing the Spartans.

“It definitely was interesting," Finnerty said. "It wasn’t very seamless. It wasn’t the easiest of transitions, mostly because of the rivalry between the two schools. Also some academic stuff didn’t transfer partially probably because of the rivalry there ... Once I got settled and everything was good, I was pretty comfortable here.”

Finnerty said the short distance made the move easier. Growing up about an hour away from campus, he attended a few soccer and football games during his childhood.

For most of the Spartans, this wasn’t the first time playing with Finnerty. Several Spartans had played with him when they were younger on club teams. Finnerty’s teammates recognize his contribution to the team’s success between the posts. 

“Anytime you can get somebody who can keep the ball out of the net like he does then it goes seamlessly throughout the whole team,” redshirt senior defender Will Perkins said. “The one thing you want to do is score more goals than the other team, right? So if you’ve got a good keeper behind you then they can't score which has been very very effective for us.”

Finnerty is thankful for the warm welcome from his fellow teammates and coaching staff.  

“The guys here have been super accepting of me,” Finnerty said. “I think my experience overall at State’s been super positive and I can only thank the guys and coaches here. Soccer wise, I'm enjoying it so much. A big part of that’s the guys around me. It’s super competitive but also a really good family environment.”

Finnerty feels fortunate to play for Rensing, who challenges him to work to his full potential and adds to the family environment that is MSU men's soccer.

“Coach Rensing is well respected in the league and the country and I knew that coming in I was going to have to earn my spot,” Finnerty said. “I knew he would be fair with that and honest if I've deserved and earned it and he has and has given me every opportunity I could want.”

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After growing up in a neutral household, rooting for neither Michigan State or Michigan, he’s grateful to have experienced both schools' programs. Finnerty is the only person able to say he won six total Big Bear Trophy Games, the most recent being for MSU on Sept. 27 in East Lansing.

“That game means a lot to me,” Finnerty said. “I’ll remember that one for a long time. Obviously there was some added pressure but I tried not to think about that as much. For me, it was about winning another Big Ten game and it felt really good to win that game as a team and also personally. More importantly, it put us into a really good spot in the Big Ten."

With three games remaining in the season, Finnerty plans to continue to apply himself and contribute to MSU’s success as a team. 

“Being clean and being consistent,” Finnerty said. “That’s what we strive for everyday at practice. Obviously there’s some days where you think you can do better and that’s part of the process. 'Hey, I had a bad one today Can I do better tomorrow?' ... That's what our mentality is here (2:49-3:04).”

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