EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State men's soccer battled the wind, rain and snow as well as the Virginia Tech Hokies on the way to a 3-0 victory for MSU Sunday afternoon at DeMartin Stadium in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament.
MSU got goals from junior forward Ryan Sierakowski, junior forward DeJuan Jones and sophomore defender Michael Pimlott, with senior midfielder Ken Krolicki assisting on all three goals. The Spartans won in their first action since Nov. 5 when they lost to Ohio State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan State beat the Hokies in their first-ever meeting. With Sunday's win, MSU improves to 12-3-3 overall, while Virginia Tech ends its season with a 10-10-0 record.
"First off, I would like to congratulate Virginia Tech on a well-played game," MSU head coach Damon Rensing said. "I know Mike (Brizendine); he's a first class coach. They've had a great year, and to get to the round of 32 is a good accomplishment. I want to congratulate them on a great season, especially their goalkeeper (Ben Lundgaard) and their forward, number 11 (Marcelo Acuna) were special players. I want to wish them all the best in their careers as well."
The seventh-seeded Spartans advance to the third round, where they'll host in-state foe and 10th-seeded Western Michigan next weekend, with a date and time to be announced later. WMU advanced with a 2-0 win over Albany. The Spartans and Broncos met during the regular season with MSU winning, 1-0, on Oct. 4 in Kalamazoo.
"I'd like to thank Michigan State University. We didn't have the greatest conditions, but the field played great so our grounds crew, our administration, the support that we got here to put this event on in a little 30 degree and snowy weather. I certainly want to thank everybody involved. I could name names, but the whole group of Michigan State from President Simon to Mark Hollis, Shelley Appelbaum and on down," Rensing said.
Sunday's weather was cold with steady snow flurries that increased to blowing, blizzard-like conditions, but would have intermittent cloud breaks, with patches of sunshine.
"Lastly, I just want to congratulate our guys. I mean, what a performance. We've really kind of pushed these guys to come out and start. One of our weaknesses is that we haven't started great. I think we rectified that today, because a goal five minutes in and then we just kept the pressure on and we had a spectacular first half and played really well. These three guys (DeJuan Jones, Michael Pimlott, Ryan Sierakowski) were obviously huge contributors to that along with the whole team. The second half was a little tricky, when you're up a man and three goals. All in all, probably a little boring for the fans, but we'll take boring and a 3-0 win and on to the Sweet Sixteen," Rensing said.
The Spartans came bolting out of the gates Sunday, as snow was falling from the get-go, applying pressure and controlling action from the opening kickoff. The pressure paid off just 4:04 into the match with Jones taking a pass from senior midfielder Ken Krolicki and dribbling down the right side. Jones then laced a cross to the middle, where Sierakowski took the pass and had a back-heel flick into the back of the goal for a 1-0 Spartan lead. It was Sierakowski's team-leading eighth goal this season.
"We were just hungry after Ohio State, After getting knocked out in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, we were hungry to get back at it," Sierakowski said. "We were off two weeks, so we were just training for two weeks. We were ready to play a game, and we knew if we got them on their heels early we could get the job done."
The Hokies thought they had the equalizer in the 12th minute, but a header goal by Collin Verfurth was disallowed on an offsides call.
Four minutes later, Virginia Tech threatened again, with another header shot, this time from Marcelo Acuna, but Spartan redshirt-junior goalkeeper Jimmy Hague made a diving save to keep the score at 1-0.
The 1-0 score was short-lived, as Jones took a pass and dribbled around and through parts of the Virginia Tech defense before firing a left-footed shot from just inside the 18-yard box across to the right side of the goal for a 2-0 Spartan advantage in the 19th minute. Jones netted his seventh goal of the year to go with his fifth assist of the year on Sierakowski's goal.
"We got off to a great start. Sitting out two weeks has made us really hungry, and we just came out firing. Everyone was confident, positive, and there was a lot of communication. We're just really proud of the result today," Jones said.
Pimlott got into the scoring in the 39th minute with a firecracker from 20-yards out to the upper left corner off the crossbar and into the net.
"It was weird. I wanted to go right, but then I took bad touches and then I said `I have to go left,' so then I just shot it. I scored a while ago, but scoring at home is so much better. It's a way better feeling," Pimlott said, who scored his second goal of the season.
Just like he had on the Spartans' previous two goals, Krolicki assisted on Pimlott's. Krolicki entered Sunday with one helper on the season, but dished out three assists Sunday.
From there, the Spartan defense bolted down the hatches and held strong and steadfast. MSU played with a man-advantage from the 41st minute, after Virginia Tech's Brendan Moyers was issued back-to-back yellow cards and was sent off.
Virginia Tech out-shot Michigan State, 13-12, including 9-7 in shots on goal. Hague ended the match with seven saves, while the Spartan defense tallied two team saves. It was Hague's 11th shutout this season and 17th career clean sheet.