SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Michigan State stunned No. 2 seed Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday afternoon, defeating the regional host 2-1. MSU traveled to take on Syracuse at its home field where it was 9-0 this season and had won 45 in a row.
Michigan State struck first, taking a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute of the game. It was first-team All-Big Ten forward Abby Barker that put home the goal, scoring her 18th goal of the season on a pass from Allie Ahern.
"For us, that was the momentum," MSU head coach Helen Knull said. "If you get up on a team, you feel more in control of the game. It gave us a little extra to keep going and really fueled the team. I thought we did a great job of disrupting their ability to attack in numbers."
Syracuse then held the Spartans without a shot for the remainder of the half, resulting in a 12-2 edge in shots at the break. Syracuse forward Alyssa Manley netted the equalizer in the 28th minute, but a strong effort highlighted by six first-half saves from MSU goalie Molly Cassidy kept the game knotted at 1-1 going into the half.
Syracuse generated more opportunities once again in the second half, outshooting the Spartans 9-2, but the stingy Michigan State defense held strong and kept the Orange off the scoreboard, leaving the door open for Michigan State to catch a break and take the lead.
That break came in the 52nd minute when a Syracuse turnover led to a Michigan State fast break that resulted in the go-ahead goal scored by freshman Kristen Matula.
Syracuse made several attempts at one final push in attempts to tie the game. A yellow card on Becky Stiles with five minutes remaining added some pressure to the defense, but MSU showed resilience and held off a comeback.
"Molly [Cassidy] had a fantastic game," Knull said. "She was deflecting things right and left. For us, once we got up, it was about keeping our poise and staying calm and controlling the game. The girls kept playing solid defense and held on."
Michigan State took just three shots on goal, but made them count, recording goals on two of them. Cassidy played a crucial role in the Spartans back line, making 10 saves on the day.
"We are peaking at the right time and have the belief that we can keep rolling," Knull said. "We are into the last eight and anytime you can do that it doesn't matter who the opponent is, it is special for your program."
MSU will now take on the winner of Boston College and Connecticut. The game will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday with a spot in the national semifinals on the line.