The dream season continues for head coach Joe Baum and the Michigan State men's soccer team as the Spartans defeated Indiana, 1-0, on Sunday (Nov. 16) in the Big Ten Championship finals. The win gives MSU both the regular-season and tournament championships for the first time in program history.
"It's overwhelming," said Baum. "Sometimes, I still feel like I'm in a dream. We had a fine season; we were so honored to win the regular-season championship and now to put this on top of it is just like a dream come true."
The last team to win both the conference regular-season and tournament championships was Indiana in 2006.
"It's something that looked out of reach when we started the season, but we dug in and it feels amazing now," said senior David Hertel. "This win is a testament to our team."
The Hoosiers got the best of the Spartans early on, keeping the play on the MSU half of the field and firing four shots in the first 15 minutes before the Spartans final got their first scoring chance. IU's Rich Balchan had the best opportunity in the early going, firing a shot from just left of the net from 6 yards out the missed wide.
A free kick from just outside the penalty area in the 33rd minute set up the Spartans' first quality scoring opportunity as Doug DeMartin sent the ball over the defensive wall, forcing Hoosier goalkeeper Chay Cain to make a leaping save.
Indiana finished the half with a 9-3 shot advantage.
"They came out firing and we were a little pinned in," said senior Doug DeMartin, who was named offensive player of the tournament. "We hung on and our defenders played great. We just knew we had to hang on and we would get our chances."
The Hoosiers came out with more of the same pressure to start the second half but Spartan goalkeeper Avery Steinlage proved equal to the task in each instance to help keep the game scoreless.
Despite being outshot, it was MSU's offensive pressure that paid off first just over 11 minutes into the second half when the Big Ten's top scorer, DeMartin, gave the Spartans the lead. Jeff Ricondo started the play, streaking down the right side of the field and then serving the ball into the box for Louis Stephens III, who set up DeMartin with a perfect touch pass for his 17th goal of the year.
"Doug is a great player and Louis game him a nice ball and he had a nice opening and I was sure Doug would bury it," said Baum.
IU kept attacking and Steinlage stepped up again with a diving save in the 66th minute off a header by Brian Ackley. Steinlage's biggest save of the game came in the 73rd minute when he was in perfect position to stop a diving header by Indiana's Neil Wilmarth.
As it has done all year, the MSU defense was strong and stepped up its play when the game was on the line and limited the Hoosier's opportunities in the final minutes.
Steinlage, who earned defensive player of the tournament honors, picked up his ninth shutout with six saves and extended his unbelievable shutout streak to 695:03.
"It's a credit to our defense," said Steinlage. "I can't stress enough how great of a team defense we have. They make my job easy."
The win was MSU's second this season over Indiana. Entering the 2008, the Spartans had defeated IU just twice since 1965.
"Hopefully, that is just a start for this program," DeMartin said. "They are a great team and will have a good run in the (NCAA) Tournament."
The Spartans (13-5-1) will find out their NCAA Tournament draw Monday when the field is announced.