Nov. 21, 2010

Courtesy of Michigan State Athletics

Indianapolis, Ind. -
In a finish that is usually reserved for Hollywood movies, senior midfielder Jeff Ricondo returned from a monthlong injury layoff and scored the lone goal in a 1-0 Michigan State victory over Butler in NCAA second -round action on Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis. The Spartans advance to the NCAA third round for the first time since 1968, and will next play on Sunday, Nov. 28.

Ricondo, who was sidelined with injury since the Wisconsin game on Oct. 17, entered the game with just over 10 minutes remaining, and buried a shot from about 25 yards out. The Spartans had been pressing, and Ricondo was able to keep a ball from a Butler defender and send the shot into the left side-netting.

Ricondo, who missed seven games as his team struggled down the stretch, was in the game just four minutes before playing the role of hero.

MSU dealt Butler (16-1-3) its only loss of the season. The Bulldogs were the regular-season and tournament champions of the Horizon League.

"I'm very proud of our team today," said second-year head coach Damon Rensing. "It was a huge team win, and anytime you get to play a round of 32, there's a lot of good teams. Butler is a well-coached opponent and is an incredibly classy program, and we got the game that we expected from them. It was well-played, and I am thrilled for our players."

The game featured play in both ends, counter-attacks after quality chances, and a fairly active day for MSU keeper Avery Steinlage. Steinlage did a solid job of punching out crossing attempts and gathering balls out of the air, stifling several scoring chances. Butler's back line did a nice job of stifling MSU scoring chances as well, and keeper Fabian Knopfler had a couple of big stops down the stretch as well. Kyle Pateros had a close chance for the Bulldogs in the 60th minute, launching a shot from just inside the 18 that Avery Steinlage was able to punch away.

Though Butler held a 15-6 advantage in shots taken, both teams struggled to get clean shots on net, as it was a much slimmer 4-2 edge in shots on goal. MSU edged Butler in fouls, 12-11. Both teams fought hard to connect with the back of the net, but the Spartans prevailed when Ricando tallied his fourth goal of the season.

Steinlage finished with four saves, as MSU improves to 13-7-1 overall and will play in the NCAA third round for the first time since 1968 - a season in which MSU advanced to the National Championship.

MSU must wait to learn its third-round opponent - the Spartans will either travel to No. 3 overall seed North Carolina, or host Georgetown next Sunday. Georgetown and North Carolina kick off today at 6 p.m. MSU played Georgetown earlier in the season, and handed the Hoyas a 4-0 decision.