The Spartans have made program history reaching the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history thanks to a 50th-minute penalty spot goal from senior midfielder Justina Gaynor. Michigan State took to the field in Provo, Utah and defeated Harvard 1-0 in the round of 32.
After the match, Coach Hosler spoke about the pride he had for his team and the steps they have taken in the last three years.
“It’s just massive for us three years in… to win another Big Ten Championship and now advance to the third round to be one of the last six teams left in this tournament is a pretty amazing feeling,” Hosler said.
Coach Hosler made just one change to his lineup from Michigan State’s 3-0 win against Ohio in the first round. Graduate defender Raegan Cox made her return to the starting lineup while freshman defender Renee Watson started on the bench.
Both side's defenses dominated the first half. Harvard held the Spartans to zero shots on target in the first half, while Harvard only generated two shots on target although there was little threat behind the attempts.
The Spartans went on to control a majority of the possession in the first half attacking the Crimson 18-yard box constantly but struggled to break through their backline. The Spartans generated five corners, and seven shots in the first half but failed to put any of their chances on target.
Harvard absorbed the early pressure of Michigan State well. Blocking a majority of the shots on the top of their 18-yard box, while quickly breaking on the counter-attack when the Spartans committed players forward.
As the half progressed Harvard began to break down the Spartan high press that had been posing so many problems early on. They found themselves in multiple dangerous positions late on in the first half but were unable to create a decisive chance.
The Spartans found the lead early on in the second half with their first shot on target in the match. A clumsy tackle from Harvard sophomore defender August Hunter on sophomore midfielder Emerson Sargeant called on the referee to point at the spot, where Gaynor cooly slotted home the penalty kick to give the Spartans the lead. Gaynor’s goal was her third penalty kick goal of the season in as many taken.
As the second half settled Harvard began to push more players forward in search of a goal. The Crimson started to find themselves around the State 18-yard box consistently as they continued to break down the Spartan press. The Spartan backline remained resilient in part due to a remarkable performance from freshman defender Mimi Hallier.
In the 67th minute, controversy struck for the Crimson. Freshman forward Ólöf Kristinsdóttir fired a cutback into the Spartan 18-yard box that was cleared away, racing over to the second ball before being met by a sliding challenge from senior midfielder Raegan Dalton that seemed to be missed by the referee.
Harvard continued to push for a goal while desperation began to build amongst the side. The Crimson tested graduate goalkeeper Kaitlyn Parks twice in quick succession in the 70th minute but Parks was able to provide answers to both attempts.
The Spartan's backline remained resilient in the final 20 minutes of the match fending off the onslaught of Harvard’s need for an equalizer that saw them continue to push more and more players forward. Harvard generated a total of 16 shots in the second half including a key chance in the 84th minute for Kristindóttir who turned her marker before firing over the crossbar from 15 yards out.
The clean sheet marks the Spartan’s second in the tournament and ninth this season. After the match, Parks gave props to her defense for doing “most of the work.” Parks also spoke about the excitement in the team for making history by advancing to the third round.
“We’re just really grateful, and we’re going to keep pushing and hopefully we’re not done yet,” Parks said.
The Spartans will face the winners of first-seed BYU and eight-seed USC on Saturday, Nov. 18. At 8 p.m. ET in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
“Everything’s going to be about recovery for us… One day of rest and recovery and a lot of prep, and then we're going to have to turn it around to face one of two quality opponents,” Hosler said.
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