Michigan State 2014 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School - Michigan State
Conference - Big Ten
Coach - Damon Rensing (Sixth Season)
Background - The Spartans had a banner season in 2013 with a 14-6-3 overall record and a 3-2-1 mark in conference play which was good for a third place finish in Big Ten play. The fourteen wins was a new single-season record. The Spartans topped Ohio State and Northwestern to advance to the championship match in the Big Ten Tourney where they fell 1-0 to Indiana.  They were awarded the number eleven seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced past Louisville and sixth seeded Georgetown before losing to eventual national champion Notre Dame 2-1 in the Elite Eight.  It was the first time since the 1968 season that Michigan State advanced to the Elite Eight. Senior defender Kevin Cope was named a Third Team All-American by the NSCAA and College Soccer News.  
Offense - With their top four goal scorers from the 2013 season scheduled to return the Spartans look to be in good shape on the offensvie side of the ball.  Senior forwards Tim Kreutz (9g, 5a) and Adam Montague (6g, 6a), senior midfielder Fatai Alashe (4g, 2a) and junior midfielder Jay Chapman (3g, 8a) return to give Michigan State a multi-dimensional offense.  Kreutz and Chapman were named to the 2013 All-Big Ten First Team and Montague was an All-Big Ten Second Team selection. Seniors Kyle Rutz (2g, 0a) and Ben Meyers also return to give the Spartans a very solid group of experienced midifielders. Senior forward Blake Skamiera, redshirt junior midfielder Asa Miller, sophomore midfielder Brian Winterfield and sophomore forward Ali Scheib are among other returning players who will seek to play a greater role in 2014. Freshman midfielder Ken Krolicki is among the newcomers who should compete for playing time from the get-go.           

Defense - The backline is the biggest unknown heading into the 2014 campaign. The Spartans will no longer have All-American center-back Kevin Cope (2g, 2a) to lean on when the going gets tough.  They also lose left back Ryan Thelen (2g, 7a) who has contributed a ton of assists over the past two seasons and highly regarded back Wesley Curtis whose playing time was hampered due to injury. Redshirt senior center back Ryan Keener (1g, 4a) who has three years of starting experience returns in the back to provide a solid foundation upon which to build.  The fact that reloading is required in the back means the Spartans will have to rely on several inexperienced players. That translates into a learning curve and the potential for inconsisency in the early going. Sophomores Andrew Herr and Dewey Lewis (2g, 3a) who were named to the 2013 Big Ten All Freshman team look to be in the mix to fill the void in the back but could also figure prominently in the midfield.  Redshirt sophomore defender Jerome Cristobal who appeared in twenty games last year is among other returning players who should be in the hunt for a key role in the back. The Spartans may also look to a few of their newcomers to fill the gap. Freshmen center backs Jimmy Fiscus who played for the Crew Academy Wolves and Brad Centala who played for the Vardar Academy are likely candidates to compete for minutes right away. Junior Zach Bennett who has been the starter in goal for the past two seasons returns to give Michigan State a solid presence between the pipes. Last year Bennett had a 0.70 goals against average and tied the school record with thirteen shutouts.   

Newcomers - Four Star Recruiting Class   

Coach Rensing stated, "I think the class is pretty well rounded as far as positions. We've got a few defenders, two goalkeepers and some attacking players.  They certainly fit the needs that we have moving forward here at Michigan State. Six of the seven kids are from the state of Michigan.  I think that just proves our commitment to both Michigan kids and Midwest kids." 

Brad Centala - Defender - Grosse Pointe Woods - Gross Pointe North - Starter for U-16 and U-18 Vardar Academy.  All-District. All-Conference.  

Jimmy Fiscus - Defender - Novi, Michigan - Northville High School - Played for CSA Wolves.  Michigan ODP team. Region II team.  All-Conference. All-Area. All-District.

Ken Krolicki - Midfield - Canton, Michigan - Plymouth Canton High School - Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 126 player in the class of 2014.  Played for Michigan Jaguars in 2011 and 2012.  Played for the Crew Acadmy Wolves in 2013 and 2014. Michigan ODP team starter.    

Michael Marcantognini - Midfield - Sudbury, Ontario - St. Andrews College - Tallied 96 goals and 39 assists in 66 games at St. Andrews.  Played for Toronto FC Junior Academy.  U-14 and U-16 Team Ontario Provincial member.

Lou Plascencia - Defender - Okemos, Michigan - Okemos High School - First-Team All State selection.  All-Conference First Team.  Michigan ODP team.  Played with Novi Jaguars  and Grand Rapids Crew Juniors.  

Phillip Stair - Goalkeeper - Flushing, Michigan - Flint Powers Catholic - All District. Second Team All-State.  Starting keeper for the U-16 and U-18 Crew Soccer Academy Wolves.   

Jason Stacy - Forward - Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Forest Hills Central High School - Transfer from Michigan who sat out the 2013 season due to NCAA regulations. McDonald's All-American, First Team All-State, Michigan Dream Team. Played for Michigan in 2012.  

Zach Carroll - Defender - Grand Blanc, Michigan - Grand Blanc High School - Junior transfer from Virginia were he started 22 games at center back the past two seasons. 2011 NSCAA National Boys High School Player of the Year.  

Brian Alumbaugh - Midfielder - Northville, Michigan - Northville HIgh School - Junior transfer from LIU-Brooklyn where he had 24 starts the past two seasons.  All-State selection at Northville High School. 

Prognosis for 2014College soccer has had plenty of schools over the years who have made their presence known on the national scene for a year or two only to drop back to more familiar territory within their conferences.  Michigan State under the direction of Damon Rensing doesn't appear to fit that temporary mold.  This is a program that has earned an invite to the NCAA Tourney six out of the last seven seasons including four of the five seasons that Rensing has been at the helm of he program and with eight starters scheduled to return looks to be well positioned for continued success in the Big Ten and on the national level in 2014.  Tim Kreutz and Adam Montague give the Spartans one of the top forward duos in the country.  The Spartans will be without midfielders Brent McIntosh (1g, 2a) and Sean Conerty (3g, 3a) but a solid group of linkmen are slated to return led by junior Jay Chapman and senior Fatai Alashe. Senior center back Ryan Keener will anchor the backline and junior Zach Bennett is rock solid in goal with two years of starting experinece under his belt. The backline is the big question mark heading into the 2014 due to the graduation of All-American center back Kevin Cope and left back Ryan Thelen. Sophomores Andrew Herr, Dewey Lewis and Jerome Cristobal or senior Kyle Rutz could prove to be the answer. The fact that the Spartans may have to rely on freshmen to fill the void could be problematic particulary in the early going.  The highly competitive Big Ten Conference will be even tougher in 2014 with the addition of Maryland.  If Michigan State plays to their potential on the offensive side of the ball, avoids the injuries that have plaqued them at times in the past, and if they gell and show some grit on the defense end, then there is evey reason to believe that they will again hold their own in conference play and make yet another appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2014.      

 

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