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COLUMN: Why MSU women's soccer recent success is here to stay

November 28, 2022
<p>Michigan State Head Coach Jeff Hosler addresses his team, photo courtesy of MSU Athletics and Maria Babcock.</p>

Michigan State Head Coach Jeff Hosler addresses his team, photo courtesy of MSU Athletics and Maria Babcock.

Photo by Courtesy of MSU Athletic Communications | The State News

Two years ago, Michigan State women's soccer won one game all season long.

One game.

Fast forward two years later, that same program won seventeen games (breaking the program record of 15), won the Big Ten Championship, hosted its first ever NCAA Tournament game and advanced to the second round of that same tournament for the third time ever.

How did this all happen so fast?

There are many reasons why the switch has been flipped with the program, but one man spearheads it all. That man is Head Coach Jeff Hosler. 

Winning is not new to Hosler, as he has had previous success in prior endeavors, such as winning three NCAA Championships with Grand Valley State and boasting the highest winning percentage in all of NCAA soccer during his seven year tenure.

When Hosler was hired, the team was coming off a 1-10-1 season. For any new head coach coming into a program that had just one win in the previous year, the expectation is not relatively high.

Whatever expectation there was around the program was immediately thrown into the Red Cedar River, as Hosler went on to win 10 games in just his first season in the green and white, just narrowly missing out on the NCAA Tournament.

Many players took huge strides in that season, including Ava Cook. Cook came from GVSU with Hosler and balled out at MSU. She scored seven goals and notched three assists in her 2021 campaign. The performance was good enough for her to be taken 18th overall by the Chicago Red Stars in the 2022 NWSL Draft.

With the loss of Cook and the noise the Spartans made around the league, expectations for this past season were higher than previous years, but what they did this past season caught most by surprise.

Hosler said MSU missed out of the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago because of their strength of schedule, so he made sure the committee would not make the same excuse as last year.

In their first ranked non-conference matchup, the Spartans lost to No. 11 Arkansas on the road in a tight match. The team put up a great fight, but just could not get it done.

When No. 19 Colorado came to DeMartin though, it was a different story. MSU went on to win 4-2, which was good for its fifth win on the season.

From that point on, the switch was flipped. They would go on to beat Illinois in their next match before scoreless drawing Iowa. From this point on, the team could not be stopped.

MSU went on to rattle off ten straight wins, with four of them coming against ranked opponents. Michigan State's amazing run came to an end in the Big Ten Tournament Championship though as No. 21 Penn State got its revenge in a classic 3-2 win after falling to the Spartans at home. It was the Spartans only loss of the Big Ten season.

This time around, 15 wins was good enough for the NCAA selection committee, as MSU reached the tournament as a four seed. Michigan State had not been there since 2009.

They then went on to beat Milwaukee in the first round in a thriller, but ultimately fell to playoff seasoned and five seeded TCU in South Bend in the second round a week later.

All of the remarkable achievements this season should be accredited to Hosler, who won Big Ten Coach of the Year, but his players on the field showed they were as good as anyone in the country.

Senior forward Lauren DeBeau, who came from Central Michigan to play for Hosler, notched 11 goals and four assists in her season, which was good enough for the Big Ten to name her Forward of the Year.

Graduate defender Ruby Diodati transferred in from Colgate this season and immediately made her mark in the back end. She took home Big Ten Defender of the Year honors after a very stellar season. She is the first MSU player to win the award.

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Redshirt senior goalkeeper Lauren Kozal had one of the best seasons between the sticks in all of the nation, finishing the season with 63 saves and a .808 save percentage. She also won Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year. Although she is a redshirt senior, there is a chance that she returns. As of now she is undecided.

DeBeau, Diodati and Kozal are just some of the names that came up big for MSU this season, but countless other players racked up award after award throughout the year.

While there will be players that move on, the Spartans are bringing in a massive 10 player recruiting class in 2022, along with returning key contributors from this season such as All-Big Ten Freshman midfielder Emerson Sargeant and super substitute sophomore forward Jordyn Wickes, who recorded seven goals off the bench for MSU this year.

The departures could strike MSU harder than foreseen, but now that the standard is through the roof, players will have to hold themselves accountable for making sure these past two seasons have not been flukes.

This season is one that can serve as a confidence builder for the players who will have to step up for next season. They know that they have what it takes to get it done and they have seen it done before, all that is left is to go out there and take it.

While expectations should not be higher than this season's for next year, there are now 10 times more eyes on the program than ever before. When pressure is put on, some fold. Others, like Hosler, have track records of sustained success which should comfort some of the program's doubters.

With winning comes recognition, and with recognition comes attractiveness. If Hosler keeps winning, which he has shown that he can make history with anyone's players, let alone the one's he recruits, MSU women's soccer could become a destination spot for the countries top players, as well as one of the most notable teams on campus and in the nation.

Hosler knows the goal is championships, and he certainly seems to be on the right track to bring one or more to East Lansing before his time here is done. 

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