[MICHIGAN STATE MEN]Big Ten coaches sure underestimated Michigan State when they placed the Spartans in fifth place in their preseason poll. MSU is 5-1-0 following wins over Marquette (1-0) and Notre Dame (2-0) in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge over the weekend and likely to climb into this week's Soccer America top 10 rankings due out on Tuesday.
Second-year coach Damon Rensing is getting great work out of his upperclassmen.
Junior Domenic Barone scored twice and classmate Cyrus Saydee had a pair of assists in the victory at Notre Dame on Sunday afternoon. Two days earlier, Saydee scored a superb goal to give the Spartans the win over Marquette at DeMartin Stadium.
Senior keeperAvery Steinlage has not allowed a goal in his last four appearances, a stretch of 336 minutes dating back to the Georgetown game, the Spartans' only loss of the season.
"I thought we did a nice job today, particularly in the first half, of being organized defensively," said Rensing after the win over No. 24 Notre Dame. "I'm happy with our performance against two good Big East teams this weekend. Domenic had two really nice goals today, too."
Senior Spencer Thompson (2 goals, 4 assists) and juniors Rubin Bega (3 goals) and Brent Rosendall (2 goals, 1 assist) also have made key contributions this season.
Michigan State, currently No. 15 in the Soccer America Top 25, opens its Big Ten season Sunday when it hosts Northwestern. The game against the Wildcats will be televised on the Big Ten Network (kickoff: 1 p.m. ET).
The Spartans are enjoying great support from the East Lansing soccer community, averaging 1,646 fans a game, up from an average of 940 in 2009.