Spartans fall to No. 1 Notre Dame

MSU men's soccer drops final non-conference game 2-0 on Tuesday.

The Michigan State men's soccer team took to DeMartin Stadium on Tuesday looking for its first win against the top-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish since 2010.

But back-to-back Notre Dame goals in the second half ended all hopes of a Michigan State victory, giving the ACC-leading Fighting Irish a 2-0 win in the Spartans' final non-conference game of the season.

After a first half of even play, the Fighting Irish (10-1-5, 6-1-3) broke the 0-0 deadlock in the 60th minute on a goal from the team's leading scorer, Harrison Shipp.

Less than forty seconds later, Vince Cicciarelli doubled Notre Dame's lead and ended the Spartans' hopes of a quick comeback.

With the loss, the Spartans – ranked No. 18 in the NSCAA Poll – fell to 9-4-3, but coach Damon Rensing said there were many positives in his team's outing.

"I think if you break the game down into pieces, I thought we were very good for 85 minutes in the game," Rensing said. "I thought there were spells where we were clearly the better team on the day, and there were spells where they were the better team.

"That's something to feel good about."

The Spartans started the game strong, testing Notre Dame's goalie Patrick Wall early and often.

Redshirt junior Tim Kreutz hit a shot just wide of Wall after getting on the end of a long through-ball played by defenseman Ryan Keener just minutes into the game.

The Spartans' best chance of the game came from midfielder Brent McIntosh, who hit a driven ball from 25-yards out to force Wall to make a diving save midway through the first half.

"Their defense is pretty compact and we were having trouble breaking them," McIntosh said. "Obviously, we didn't take advantage of the chances that we did have."

Notre Dame's speedy and skilled attacking duo of Shipp and Cicciarelli proved to be a threat for MSU keeper Zach Bennett, accounting for four shots of the Fighting Irish's nine in the first half.

Even though Notre Dame's technical abilities and frequent counterattacks were on display in the first half, Michigan State's defense stood tough, keeping the game scoreless heading into halftime.

"Most of those possession teams don't like to counter as much, but that's one thing Notre Dame is good at; they do counter well," Keener said. "Luckily they didn't punish us on any of those, we dealt with that pretty well, so lots of work defensively paid off on those aspects."

Notre Dame found a way to break through one of the strongest defenses in the Big Ten at the 59:37 mark when Shipp eluded two defenders and hit a shot from the top of the box off the right post of MSU's goal and into the back of the net.

Cicciarelli added the dagger at the 60:14 mark, just 37 seconds after Shipp's goal, beating MSU's defenders on the run and hitting a hard, low shot past Bennett into the right corner.

"We let up for three minutes and let in two goals, and its something we can't do against the number one team in the nation; they're going to punish you," Kreutz said. "I thought we were up for the challenge today, but we let off for those 3 minutes."

Despite their best efforts pushing forward throughout the end of the second half, MSU couldn't convert in the final third, and was handed its third home loss of the season.

Shipp's game-winning goal was his seventh goal overall, and his fourth game-winner of the season.

"(Shipp) is special," Rensing said. "He made an individual play that put them up 1-0 and I was disappointed in how we responded in the next few minutes there."

Michigan State's final regular-season game of the season is at home against the University of Michigan on Saturday at 2 p.m., and Rensing's Spartans hope to close the season with a win.

"We need to rest some legs and just come in focused," he said. "It's senior day, and we've got some great seniors in this program and we really want to send them out on a high note."

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