Spartans win men’s Big Ten soccer championship

By Nader Ihmoud

Contributing Writer: Doug Pitorak

The Michigan State University Spartans men’s soccer team defeated the University of Michigan Wolverines 2-1 in overtime to win the Big Ten Tournament title for the third time in program history on Nov. 11.

Freshman midfielder Sean Conerty rescued his team from disaster by delivering the golden goal eight minutes into the first overtime period. He ended the game by rifling a shot past Michigan goalkeeper Adam Grinwis to the far corner from 35-yards out. After the game he could not curb his excitement.

“This is the most incredible thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said. “Just being a freshman and being able to come through for my team like that, it’s unreal.”

The Spartans’ victory marks the third time a No. 5 seed won the championship. Coincidentally, all three occurrences have been upsets over the No. 3 seed. The Spartans (11-9-1) had more than history on their side though; they had the wind too.

Northwestern University hosted the Big Ten Tournament this year, and at Lakeside Field in Evanston the wind was forceful and tremendously impacted the game.

In the first half, Michigan State attacked the north goal, and, supported by Mother Nature, tallied 10 shots total. Michigan managed just three shot attempts. However, when the teams switched sides the stat reversed: The Wolverines took 10 shots, holding the Spartans to three.

“Probably the unsung MVP is Donnie Barone [Sr. midfielder] because he called both coin tosses and got ‘em right,” Spartans Head Coach Damon Rensing said jokingly.

But those coin tosses were no laughing matter, especially considering that all three goals were scored on the north end of the field.

In the 38th minute, sophomore forward Adam Montague increased his team-high in goals to seven with a one-touch smash to the near post from outside the 18-yard-box.

His goal looked to be the game winner for the Spartans until the 88th minute when junior forward T.J. Roehn ran past the last line of the Spartans’ defense, beat goalkeeper Zach Bennett to the bouncing ball and effortlessly flicked it over Bennett into the back of the net.

Heading into extra time it seemed the Wolverines had momentum while the Spartans were stunned.

“That’s kind of a heartbreaker, just two minutes left and you [allow] that kind of goal,” said Montague. “At the beginning of the season I think we were 1-4-1, and we stuck together, and look at us now. Big Ten Tournament Champions.”

The Spartans didn’t wait for a formal trophy presentation, showing off their new hardware to their fans mere seconds after the game was won.

The win gives the Spartans an automatic bid to the NCCA tournament.