WHO: Michigan State Spartans @ Maryland Terrapins
WHAT: Women's soccer B1G Conference game
WHERE: Ludwig Field, University of Maryland College Park
WHEN: Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 1:00 pm
WATCH: BTN Plus
The Michigan State Spartans come to Ludwig Field in College Park Sunday afternoon for a surprisingly important early season game. Both squads will be looking to make a quick turnaround following matching 1-0 losses Friday night. Michigan State dropped their decision at Rutgers when the Scarlet Knights scored in the 88th minute while Maryland lost at home to a strong and improving Michigan squad who scored in the 83rd minute to edge the Terps.
Spartans on the pitch
Michigan State finished the 2013 season 9-8-2 with all eight losses coming in conference play where they won only three games and finished tied for tenth. This echoed a pattern from the 2012 season where eight of their nine losses also came in conference play. Their tenth place finish excluded them from the conference tournament as only the top eight teams earned spots. The Spartans do, however, return their top two scorers from a team that averaged 1.63 goals per game. They also have a returning redshirt senior in goal but more on her when we get to the players to watch.
Michigan State's play in the first quarter of the current season once again parallels the results of the two previous seasons - sweeping away their non-conference opposition while struggling in conference games. The Spartans are 6-3 on the year and have lost three in a row with all of those losses coming against conference opponents. Even so, they haven't been an easy out. Both ninth ranked Wisconsin and Minnesota needed overtime to eke out their wins and Rutgers needed over 87 minutes before breaking through on a set play off a free kick to gain theirs.
The Spartans are fairly stout defensively conceding only eight goals in their nine games to date and three of their games have gone to overtime. Judging only by the statistics, they look to be a team that shoots somewhat judiciously and looks to score off counters since their opponents take three more shots per game on average.
Players to watch
Jamie Cheslik, #15, freshman, forward. Cheslik has made quite a splash early in her freshman campaign. She has started all nine games and leads the Spartans in goals with five and points with eleven. She has also been the focal point of Michigan State's attack taking a team leading 24 shots.
Allyson Krause, #2, junior, forward. Despite the differences in spelling, I might have included Krause as a player to watch simply because of her homophonic ties to one of my favorite singers. However, the junior forward piled up 14 points on five goals and four assists to lead the Spartans in scoring in 2013. Thus far this season, she's scored twice and matched last season's assist total.
Mary Kathryn Fiebernitz, #7, redshirt junior, defender. As the leading goal scorer on the 2013 Spartans, Fiebernitz was one of Michigan State's preseason players to watch. It looks as though Fiebernitz has a big leg. Two of her three goals this season have come on penalty kicks. As one might expect given her position, the third came off a corner kick.
Courtney Clem, #0, redshirt senior goalkeeper. While Clem had a respectable if unspectacular junior season, she has opened her final campaign with a bang. Clem has started all nine games for the Spartans and sports a .078 goals against average and a .875 save percentage. She has already won the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week twice this season.
There is none. The two programs have never met on the pitch. So, if the pregame mix includes a little Foreigner, it won't just feel like the first time. Expect both teams to play with a palpable sense of urgency. The Spartans have yet to scratch the win column in conference play and, after their loss on Friday, the Terps need to defend their home field.