After a hard-fought 3–1 loss against then–No. 20 Georgetown last weekend, the Yale men’s soccer team will look to defend the newly renovated Reese Stadium against an even higher-ranked foe.
The Bulldogs (1–2–0, 0–0–0 Ivy) will go toe-to-toe with No. 4 Michigan State (5–0–1, 0–0–0 Big Ten) on Friday in their first home game since new turf was installed at Reese. Carrying a four-game winning streak into New Haven, the Spartans will have plenty of momentum for the night game under lights.
“Georgetown prepared us well for Michigan State since they’re equally strong opponents,” goalkeeper Tom Wallenstein ’21 said. “If we all train well this week and learn from our mistakes, I believe we’ll have a good chance against Michigan with the support of our home crowd.”
In the nation’s capital last weekend, the Elis suffered a 3–1 loss at the hands of the Hoyas after keeping the game close in the first half. An early Georgetown goal was quickly followed by a score from midfielder Nicky Downs ’19 to tie the game.
However, the Hoyas showed why they were ranked in the nation’s top 20 in the final 45 minutes: They scored goals in both the 51st and the 81st minutes to seal the victory.
“It will be nice to be home and to get back to training at Reese,” head coach Kylie Stannard after the game. “Michigan State is going to be another awesome challenge for our team, but I like our group and we aspire to compete against the top teams in the country.”
The Spartans are undefeated in this year’s campaign and have posted shutout wins against South Florida and Bowling Green. Dominating the opposition, Michigan State has won by two or more goals in three of its five victories and has shown no sign of slowing down ahead of Friday’s contest.
For the Eli defense, one key will be to shut down the Spartans’ numerous offensive threats. Finding the back of the net in three of the team’s six games, Michigan forward DeJuan Jones leads the team in goals with five. Jones has also tallied an assist so far this season. Last season’s leading goal-scorer, forward Ryan Sierakowski, has also gotten off to an impressive start to this year’s campaign, scoring three goals of his own and setting up four more for his teammates.
On the defensive side of the pitch, Michigan State has brought in numerous young players, with reigning Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year Jimmy Hague continuing to hold down the back line. Hague recorded a season-high four saves when the Spartans took on Bowling Green earlier this season and snagged three more in Monday’s contest against Oakland. With Hague in goal, the Bulldogs must focus on finishing their goal-scoring opportunities with exceptional shot placement.
The Spartans are not unfamiliar with the Bulldogs; Stannard was the assistant coach at Michigan State for six years and was promoted to associate head coach in 2014 before leaving to take the top job at Yale. In his tenure in the Midwest, Stannard helped the team to multiple NCAA tournament appearances, including standout seasons in 2013 and 2014 in which the Spartans made it to the Elite Eight. That experience coaching in the biggest games was part of what piqued Yale’s interest in Stannard.
On Yale’s side of the ball, the offensive line has been a source of focus for the Bulldogs thus far as the team looks to improve on last year’s low-scoring season. In that area, this year’s campaign has been a success thus far, with the Elis averaging two more shots per game than last season. The Elis had been shooting on goal as many as 19 times a game before Georgetown’s backline stifled their offense and held them to eight shots last week.
“We know the level of play required of us to beat top-20 opponents,” forward John Leisman ’20 said. “And we’ll have a chance to do so again on Friday versus Michigan State.”
The contest against the Spartans kicks off Friday at 7 p.m.
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