SPARTANS WIN 2012 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
After years of hard work, dedication, training and travel across the nation, MSU Men's Club Soccer won their first National Championship in 2012.
The road began at the Regional Tournament in Indianapolis, Indiana after defeating Cincinnati 1-0 to advance to the Regional Semi-Finals. The game-winning goal was scored by Senior captain and undisputed leader, Matt Kaminski. The Spartans were defeated by Illinois in the Regional Finals with penalty kicks; however, they secured their bid to Memphis, Tennessee for the NIRSA National Tournament.
Twenty-four teams were selected across the nation to complete in the National Tournament. Similar to the World Cup, group play began the tournament. MSU's group included Colorado School for Mines (CSU) and Louisiana State University (LSU). The Spartans began their triumph with a 3-0 victory over CSU. This victory advanced MSU to the knock-out stages, but the team was determined to win their group. Michigan State's next match, LSU, was a dominating performance. The Spartans won 4-0 and headed to the single-elimination games.
Michigan State then faced Georgia in the Sweet 16. The match was extremely physical and mentally exhausting, but MSU's substitutions provided immediate support to keep the scoreline even through two overtimes. The Spartans defeated Georgia in a penalty-kick shootout with the fifth shooter. MSU's next opponent would be the Fighting Illini of Illinois.
MSU previously advanced to the Quarter-Finals in 2009; however, their journey ended with a loss to the University of Colorado in penalty kicks. Illinois was a familiar foe for MSU as they eliminated the Spartans in the Regional Tournament. The game was fairly even with both teams creating scoring opportunities. It appeared the game was headed to overtime until an own goal was given-up by Illinois. High pressure from the Spartans created the game winning opportunity, and MSU advanced to their first Final Four.
The Final Four opponent was Cinderella-story Washington University (St. Louis). Possession was dominated by the Spartans, but the score remained 0-0 at halftime. WashU was scrappy, creating occasional counter-attacks and scoring threats. Michigan State remained oragnized and aggressive during the second half; the Spartans won 3-0.
Michigan State advanced to the National Championship where they met Weber State University - the defending National Champions. Weber State's athleticism, experience and size created an evenly-matched opponent for the Spartans. They continually challenged MSU's defense, but the center back combination of Andrew Phinney, Brad Sauchak and Mike Nickerson held strong to keep Weber State away from scoring. The first half concluded with scoring opportunities from Michigan State's Adam Kundinger and Eke Ofili, but the score remained 0-0.
In the second half, Michigan State continued to carry play and create dangerous attacks. The game ended with neither team scoring, however, and headed to overtime.The Spartans controlled play throughout overtime. MSU Midfielders, Tanner Higgins and Steve Sommerlot, connected passes to create opportunities, but the Spartans were unable to convert. The National Championship headed to penalty kicks to crown a winner. Matt Kaminski scored the opening kick for MSU, while Tanner Higgins netted the second shot. Michigan State's Goalie, Ryan Lovell, made a diving save to deny Weber State's second penalty. This gave MSU a 2-1 lead over Weber State. Adam Kundinger became the third shooter for MSU. He converted his kick with power to increase the pressure on Weber State. MSU's Lovell then became the team hero after he saved Weber State's third effort. This increased the lead to 3-1 for the Spartans. MSU's Max Washko was the fourth shooter and had the opportunity to win the game. Washko calmly walked to the spot and easlity converted his shot in the side netting to give the Spartans their first National Championship.
Michigan State's bench rushed the field and celebrated with joy. Each player was awarded a medal, and individual awards were announced. The Spartans celebrated with friends and family following the match, creating cherished memories. National Championship rings, along with apparel and memorabilia, were presented to players at the team's annual banquet.