"When we played them a couple weeks ago? Well, I thought we played very well in the first half and competed well, and, you know, we had a great game from Nick Van Sicklen, who helped close it out for us. They had the better of it maybe the last 25, 30 minutes, which in soccer you get, it's just typical. You get a goal and suddenly one team starts to get a little bit more of the game and so forth. So I think we match up really well with Michigan State and, you know, I'm looking forward to Thursday when we get a chance to see them again. Obviously we're going to know them very well, having seen them not too long ago."
With where you finished in the conference, what do you have to do to make the NCAA tournament? I mean, do you have to advance well into the Big Ten tournament, do you have to win it?
"Yeah, at this stage, I think with where we are we're probably going to have to win all three. You know, obviously when you're 9-9 you always look back at those three or four that maybe got away, and certainly there were a few in September. And I think we hit our stride pretty well in October. I think we're 6-3 in our last nine. So, you know, you look back and you go, hey, that one got away or that one got away, and it probably would have presented a little different picture going into this weekend. But the team has been playing well through October and I think Sunday was just a, you know, a small setback, and if we can get back to the way we were playing for most of that month we have as good a chance as anyone."
Coach, at the beginning of the season we talked about your defense. Are you pleased the way your back line has kind of progressed throughout the season?
"Yeah, you know, for the most part. I think there's moments in the games where we still give up a chance or two or we have a little bit of a break in concentration here and there. But again, we're dealing with, you know, three sophomores and a freshman or four sophomores at any given time. So, and we're still integrating one of those kids as well. So it's gotten better, yeah, but I still think, you know, when you look at the shutout column, I'd like to have a few more of those in there. And we'd like to be as consistent as we've shown probably in October. You know, we just didn't have it as well as we did in September, or we didn't do it as well in September as we have done through October."
Just going into the Big Ten tournament, I guess your feeling of how your team is playing. Do you think you can make a run here and surprise a few folks?
"Yeah. I mean, in looking back at all the Big Ten games, and I don't know how many of you got to any of those, but there is a lot of parity in this conference. You know, every one of our games that we lost was a one-goal game, and, you know, in the games that we dropped in no way were we dominated. I thought Indiana in the first half down there, they were very, very good. Yet in the second half, I thought we were the better side.
"So, you know, going in we should feel confident and, you know, we're right on par with those teams. Every one we dropped, as I said, was a one-goal game. And in every one of those games we had good chances to put it away. Obviously, you know, Jed Hohlbein's been out for a period of time and having him back this last week and having him perform the way he did against Marquette with three goals, you know, that helps us. It takes a little bit of the pressure off a guy like Nick Van Sicklen. So having two guys that can put the ball in the net is certainly going to help us this weekend."
I was going to ask you to talk about (Jed) Hohlbein and how that all played out. Did they learn to play without him or were they kind of waiting for him to come back?
"Yeah, I think, you know, we had a couple of guys that stepped up, and for sure one of those guys was Nick. You know, Nick Van Sicklen had a great month in October. I think he was National Player of the Week, Big Ten Player of the Week a couple of times. And so he's kind of carried the load, you know, in Jed's absence. And I think, like I said, having him back is going to help us a great deal. We still need to get, you know, some help from others behind them because we can't just rely on those two. And I think the other guys up top have to pick it up as well."