ROCHESTER, Mich. – Michigan State women's soccer shutout Oakland, 2-0, in a physical-battle on the road. MSU improves to 7-1 overall and closes out the non-conference portion of its schedule with a three-game win streak.
MSU is off to its best start since the 2011 season when the team went 8-1-0 in non-conference play to begin the season.
The Spartans and the Golden Grizzlies faced off for the 19th time in program history, with MSU looking to complete non-conference play on a positive note heading into conference play. Both teams came into the match with something to prove, which resulted in a physical battle.
"I think we came out really sluggish in the first 30," MSU head coach Tom Saxton said. "Credit to Oakland, they were playing with such emotion – that's what you get when you play in-state games like this. These kids know each other, they grew up with each other and they had a point to prove; they came at us. We settled down, we got really good contributions off our substitutions, especially in the first half which changed the tempo of the game for us."
Oakland came out strong to begin the match, recording five shots in the opening half, but Michigan State was able to gain the 1-0 advantage for over 60 minutes of play.
In the 17th minute, freshman forward Paige Webber got the Spartans on the board first, with what would end up being the game-winner. Webber was able to find the ball off a deflection from a header and control the ball into the empty side of the net.
So far this season, Webber has two game-tying goals to force overtime and a game winning goal.
Michigan State started to gain momentum in the second half and was able to put more pressure on the Oakland defense with five shots.
Sophomore forward Camryn Evans netted her third of the season with five minutes to play to seal the victory for Michigan State on the road. Evans fired a shot through traffic from the middle of the box past Oakland goalkeeper Jaimie Leas, with Webber tallying the assist.
Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Lauren Kozal earned her third career shutout and seventh win of the season. Kozal had two saves to blank the Golden Grizzlies on their home turf.
Michigan State's defense assisted Kozal in the shutout, as they were able to fend off the Golden Grizzly attack in the first half. Notably, the Spartan backline was able to block two Oakland free kicks right outside the box and clear the home team's six corners.
"It's important to get the result, despite the unevenness of the play," Saxton said. "At the end of the day, the scoreboard is what people focus on so it will give us a boost. We have the toughest road trip in the Big Ten staring us right in the face. It's important to be on the upswing and getting a win is what matters most."
UP NEXT: The Spartans begin Big Ten play next week on the road with matchups at Ohio State and at Penn State. MSU will travel to Columbus, Ohio for the Big Ten season opener on Thursday, Sept. 19 at 8 p.m., in a game that will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network. MSU will face the Nittany Lions to close the opening week of conference play on Sunday, Sept. 22.