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Preview: MSU women’s soccer faces Harvard for first time ever in NCAA Tournament second round

November 15, 2023
<p>Michigan State University freshman forward Bella Najera (23) with the ball while her Ohio University opponents senior midfielder Carsyn Prigge (24) tailing behind her at the NCAA first tournament at DeMartin Soccer Complex on Nov. 10th, 2023. </p>

Michigan State University freshman forward Bella Najera (23) with the ball while her Ohio University opponents senior midfielder Carsyn Prigge (24) tailing behind her at the NCAA first tournament at DeMartin Soccer Complex on Nov. 10th, 2023.

Photo by Maya Kolton | The State News

The fifth-seed MSU women’s soccer team is set to face fourth-seed Harvard in the second round of the NCAA Tournament this Thursday. The match will mark the first-ever meeting between the women’s soccer programs

The Spartans head into the match off the back of their first-round 3-0 win against Ohio. The win was a convincing performance in which the Spartans dominated in all aspects of the match, generating a total of 25 shots to the Bobcats' four. 

Freshman forward Bella Najera was the catalyst to the Spartan's win, playing a hand in all three goals and ending the night with two goals and an assist

Coach Jeff Hosler praised the team's performance on both sides of the ball at a press conference on Monday, describing it as a “thorough and complete performance.” Hosler highlighted the dominant 72% possession his team maintained during the match, along with the three goals and clean sheet which he believes “can equal a lot of success."

Thursday marks a historic night for the Michigan State women’s soccer program. It will be the first time the women’s soccer program features in the second round of the NCAA tournament in consecutive years. In the year prior, the Spartans fell by a score of 1-0 to fifth-seed TCU in the second round. 

Hosler spoke about the return to the second round and how last year’s experience benefits the team

“We have a little bit of seasonal stamina after last year going on the run we did ... I think our team knows how to handle it now,” Hosler said. “I think that experience of last year falling short but having an incredible performance gives our team a lot of confidence we can put ourselves in a position to win on Thursday.”

Harvard enters the match with a record of 13-3-2 while being unbeaten in their last nine games. Harvard advanced to the second round following a 3-0 victory over Maine, with goals provided by freshman forward Anna Rayhill, junior midfielder Hannah Bebar and junior midfielder Josefine Hasbo. The latter sits on six assists and ten goals on the season, amidst scintillating form having scored six goals in her last four matches. 

Along with the goal threats the Crimson provides, their success has been found in an impenetrable defense. Harvard sits just third in the NCAA for the least amount of shots allowed on their goal with 44 in the season. Their defense is spearheaded by junior defender and current back-to-back Ivy League defender of the year Jade Rose

Hosler also spoke about the dangers that the Crimson present both in and out of possession. He highlighted “world class” Canadian international Rose, who has 11 appearances with the Canadian National Team, and the effectiveness of Harvard’s forwards that has seen Harvard’s goals to expected goals sit at similar figures.  

The winner of Thursday’s match will advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament which is scheduled to take place Nov. 18 at BYU’s south field. Streaming will be available on ESPN+ with kickoff set for Thursday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. ET.

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