Spartans Down Badgers on the Road, Remain Unbeaten in B1G Play

MSU freshman continues hot play.
Published: Sep. 24, 2023 at 10:20 PM EDT
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MADISON, Wis. - Behind an early goal from Bella Najera, Michigan State women’s soccer took down Wisconsin, 1-0, for the first time since 2007 at McClimon Soccer Complex Saturday afternoon.

MSU moves to 7-2-2 (2-0-1 B1G), while Wisconsin, suffering its first Big Ten loss of the season, drops to 6-2-3 (1-1-1). The Spartans have not dropped a contest in conference play since Oct. 24, 2021, a 2-1 loss to Penn State at home.

The win also marked MSU’s first win in Madison since Sept. 26, 1999.

Wisconsin led the shot count, 9-6, and corner kick battle, 6-0. The Spartans posted a 5-2 shots on goal advantage.

Najera’s 11th-minute goal was her fifth in seven games. She now leads the Spartans in scoring (11 points) and goals (5) and ranks first among all freshmen in the Big Ten in goals. Justina Gaynor and Emerson Sargeant added assists on Najera’s goal to each notch their 10th point of the season.

“Just an incredible result from this group,” said head coach Jeff Hosler. “We played our style of play the first 15 minutes or so until we scored that goal, which was an incredible goal. We had to adjust to their style of play a bit, and when we did, our team showed a lot of grit and resolve.”

The Spartans got out to a strong start offensively, holding the majority of possession through the opening 10 minutes. Gaynor and Sargeant found Najera in front of the net, who tapped the ball into the top of the goal above the Wisconsin goalkeeper to give the Spartans the lead.

Wisconsin recorded its first shot of the game in the 20th minute that was saved by MSU goalkeeper Kaitlyn Parks to maintain the Spartans’ lead. 10 minutes of back-and-forth play without a shot followed before a pair of Badger shots were blocked. Locked in a defensive battle, the Spartans and Badgers played another 10 minutes without a shot until Spartan forward MJ Andrus forced another Wisconsin save with less than two minutes remaining in the half. MSU entered the break with the 1-0 lead after neither team was able to generate momentum in the closing seconds.

For the first time this season, the Spartans played the second half without recording a shot. The Badgers’ offense roared to life in the second half, maintaining possession through most of the closing 45 minutes while threatening a number of equalizers. The closing 10 minutes proved to be the most impressive for the Spartan defense, who fended off three Wisconsin corner kick opportunities while the Badgers aggressively pressured in the attacking third.

Despite the offensive pressure from Wisconsin, the Badgers were unable to find the equalizer, giving the Spartans their second win of the weekend after a 3-1 victory at Minnesota on Thursday.

Parks earned the win in goal in 90 minutes of play, recording her first shutout of the season since MSU’s 6-0 victory over Eastern Michigan on Aug. 31. Badger goalkeeper Erin McKinney was credited with the loss.

Up next, the Spartans return home to face Maryland on Thursday, Sept. 28. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at DeMartin Stadium.

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