Beavers Take Down No. 9 Michigan State
Oregon State took a big step toward cracking the top-25 rankings on Sunday by edging No. 9 Michigan State 1-0 in the finale of the annual Hensor-Zaher Classic before an energized Lorenz Field crowd of 803.
The Beavers (2-0-0) began the weekend at No. 34 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s preseason poll. However, Sunday’s result, coupled with Friday’s 1-0 overtime triumph over Marquette of the highly-regarded Big East Conference, could propel them into the nation’s elite when the rankings are released on Tuesday.
“It’s hard to say; it’s other people’s opinions,” OSU coach Steve Simmons said when asked if the two wins were enough to get OSU into the top 25. “It doesn’t hurt.
“If we do get that kind of notoriety, this ground needs to learn how to handle that. It comes with the territory, and there’s responsibility with that. If we do get ranked, it’s wonderful [and] we’ll handle it.”
Sophomore forward Timmy Mueller, the 2014 Pacific-12 Conference Freshman of the Year, scored the only goal at 17:23. It finished of a long run down the left side by Mikhail Doholis, whose overtime marker powered OSU to a 1-0 win over Marquette on Friday night in the tournament opener.
Doholis dribbled inside the 18-yard box to the touch line and then crossed it to Mueller. He deftly deflected the ball over goalie Zach Bennett with his right foot at 17:23 for his first strike of the season.
“Mikhail likes to dribble up that left side and I know he has some dicey feet, he’s pretty quick and I knew he was going to get past that guy, it was just a matter of where it was going to go next,” Mueller said.
“Jordan Jones went back post like he should, and I just sprinted forward.
“Nobody stuck with me, so I stuck with my run. The goalie went down to get it and I just flicked it over him. It was a great goal, but I just got the last touch. Everyone else got the ball up the field and Mikhail did a great job.”
The Beavers did not surrender a goal in nearly 190 minutes of play this weekend. Keeper Nolan Wirth had three saves and posted his second consecutive shutout. OSU outshot the Spartans, who advanced to the Elite 8 of last year’s NCAA College Cup, 11-3 in the first half and 15-11 overall.
“When your defense plays that well, you always give yourself a chance,” Simmons said. “It’s like when you get run support for a pitcher in baseball. That’s what the defense does [in soccer].
“It gives your strikers the extra two or three chances on goal. I’m really pleased with our defense.”
The wins extended OSU’s home non-conference winning streak to 19 consecutive games. They have not lost at Lorenz Field since Sept. 25, 2011; their last setback was 2-1 to Missouri-Kansas City on Sept. 23 of that season.
“We knew this was a big game,” Mueller said. “We’re a young team, a new team that lost a lot of good players but it doesn’t mean we’re out of the game. We have new people filling their shoes and everyone stepped up.
“We’re going now. These wins aren’t the season; there are things we have to work on and there has to be a lot of improvement. But getting this confidence is really important for a young team like we are and we’re just going to keep going.”
Wins over Big East and Big Ten competition will greatly impact OSU’S RPI as the season progresses, and they vindicated Simmons’ decision to challenge his team with two early-season tests instead of games against overmatched opponents.
“They responded. I was very pleased the players felt that even though we got a win on Friday, they felt it didn’t play to the standard they want to. Today we really lifted that up, particularly in the first half.”
The Beavers face Vermont at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Merlo Field in Portland in their next game. The Catamounts are coached by Jesse Cormier, an OSU assistant from 2001-03.
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