Monday, June 17, 2024

Last minute game winner ends MSU men’s soccer’s undefeated season

October 24, 2023
<p>Oakland University keeper Michael Sly Jr. punts the ball into play at DeMartin Soccer Complex on Sept. 26, 2023. Sly posted five shutouts last season, including one against the Michigan Wolverines.</p>

Oakland University keeper Michael Sly Jr. punts the ball into play at DeMartin Soccer Complex on Sept. 26, 2023. Sly posted five shutouts last season, including one against the Michigan Wolverines.

The Spartans played host to Ohio State Tuesday night falling by a score of 3-2 despite a strong second-half performance that saw them battle back from a two-goal first-half deficit.

It was a high-energy first five minutes of the game that saw both the Spartans and Buckeyes get near chances in the 18-yard box.

In the 11th minute, junior midfielder Sean Kerrigan found himself one-on-one with an OSU defender on the right wing showing some clever feet before laying the ball off to sophomore forward Jake Spadafora whose shot fired over the crossbar.

Three minutes later, the Buckeyes nearly opened the scoring from a cross floated into the Spartan 18-yard box that was directed on target before redshirt sophomore Zac Kelly produced a magical diving save keeping the game level.

The Buckeyes started to work themselves into the game, sustaining more possession in the MSU half to trouble the Spartans.

The sustained pressure paid off in the 25th minute when the Buckeyes took the lead. Shifty feet on the left wing led to a cross being fired across the six-yard box that found the feet of sophomore midfielder Luciano Pechota whose first effort was saved by Kelly before he fired home the rebound to give the visitors the lead.

The Buckeyes' continued domination of possession paid off again in the 34th minute. The Buckeyes found a man free on the top of the 18-yard box as he curled an effort towards the bottom right corner that called on Kelly to produce a save.

“It was a tale of two halves," head coach Damon Rensing said. "Credit to Ohio State, I think they played for their season. We had a lot to play for, maybe we played a little tentative, but I think Ohio State started really brightly and maybe Friday night took a little bit of a toll on us."

Just seconds later, the Buckeyes found their second. A lofted cross into the back post wasn’t properly dealt with by the Spartans as the ball bounced back out to the top of the 18-yard box before being fired into the feet of Marko Borkovic who needed just one touch to double the lead for the Buckeyes.

The final action of the half saw a run of possession for the Spartans end in a counter-attack for Ohio State before senior defender Elijah Howe wiped out the Ohio State attacker to earn himself a yellow card.

The second half would see a far more aggressive, and attacking Spartan side take the field.

In the 47th minute, Kerrigan found himself on the left side of the Buckeye's 18-yard box being taken down twice before the ball ended up at the feet of sophomore forward Jonathan Stout who was also taken down, this time earning the Spartans a penalty.

After a long wait following a review of the penalty, Kerrigan stepped up smashing his shot into the bottom right corner to bring the Spartans within one. This goal now puts Kerrigan on six for the season.

The Spartans continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides in the second half with multiple dangerous crosses coming into the Buckeyes' box.

In the 56th minute, Stout showed some clever feet to dance away from a defender before his effort was deflected out for a corner. Stout got a second chance to find the back of the net from the corner when the ball fell to his feet on the top of the six-yard box, but his shot left the crossbar ringing.

In the 66th minute, sophomore defender Jeremy Sharp whipped a ball into the back post that met the head of senior forward Greyson Mercer who directed the effort on target looking ready to nestle itself in the back of the net before being met by the outstretched hand of sophomore goalkeeper Max Trejo

In the 74th minute, the Spartans found their equalizer through a moment of individual brilliance. Stout found himself alone on the left byline dancing past two markers before willing the ball past the goal line. This goal marked Stout’s fifth of the season.

The momentum shift became apparent following the goal, as the Spartans began to bombard the Ohio State 18-yard box creating chance after chance.

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In the 83rd minute, the Spartans found their chance. Sharp fired a ball low and hard across the six-yard box that found the feet of Mercer. but he was unable to direct his attempt on target.

This marked the twenty-first of the twenty-two shots the Spartans generated in this match.

“I think the concern would be if we weren’t creating chances. Sometimes the ball bounces your way. sometimes it doesn’t, and it didn’t bounce our way,” Rensing said about the wasting of opportunities.

In the 87th minute, the Spartans had their undefeated season ended. It was Pechota again who found the back of the net when he danced past his man before rifling his shot perfectly into the bottom right corner giving the visitors all three points and the win.

“This was our first loss of the season, so we’ve been very consistent and excellent all year. We’re the number 16 team in the country for a reason,” Rensing said. “We’ve been extremely consistent. We’ve been extremely good.”

The final action of the match gave the Spartans a chance to get back in the game. With 15 seconds on the clock, a ball in behind the Ohio State backline found Sharp who found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but couldn’t hit the target.

This loss marks the first of the Spartans season, as they now stand 7-1-6, and 3-1-4 in the Big Ten conference. The Spartans remain tied at the top of the Big Ten standings, although joint-top Penn State holds a game in hand against Wisconsin, while third-place Indiana holds two games in hand.

After the match, Head Coach Rensing remained extremely confident in his team reinforcing the potential of his squad.

“Look we’re gonna win a championship here," Rensing said. "I’m confident we don’t give up that third goal if this is just a regular season game, but we knew what was on the line a loss. The tie didn’t matter, we were playing for a win there at the end, and we got a little exposed and tired.”

After closing out their Big Ten Season, the Spartans will finish their regular season against Drake this Friday, Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. ET. The Spartans will also celebrate Senior Night with streaming on Big Ten Plus.

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