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Oakland beats Kentucky, advances to 2nd round of NCAA vs. MSU

Grizzlies beat Spartans 2-0 at home this season

The Oakland Grizzlies advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 2-0 win over No. 24 Kentucky Thursday.
The Oakland Grizzlies advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 2-0 win over No. 24 Kentucky Thursday.

EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Oakland University Men's Soccer team (10-6-3) will face No. 3 Michigan State (11-4-5) on Sunday at DeMartin Stadium for the second round of the NCAA Tournament at 1 p.m.

Déjà vu and history could be replaying itself for Oakland, as this is only the second time as a Division I team that it has advanced to the second round, with the first coming on Nov. 24, 2007. On that day, Oakland went to East Lansing and beat State 2-1 in a cold and exciting match as former Oakland University and Columbus Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark was in net.

While standing and freezing at the fence as a fan at that game, and taking in the atmosphere of the crowd, the effort on the pitch and the commanding stand on a national level, it was clear that college soccer at Oakland and in Michigan was one to be taken seriously.

The Grizzlies are hoping for a repeat of that game and their previous matchup with Michigan State this season: An exciting 2-0 win at home.

Head Coach Eric Pogue's Grizzlies beat the No. 24 ranked Kentucky Wildcats in the biting cold 2-0 on Thursday and recorded their eighth shutout of the season to put them back into the second round on Sunday.

The win came with a staunch defensive effort by the Oakland backline and freshman goalie Wes Mink, who kept the net safe from penetration for yet another game. The defense has stepped up after an 0-5 start to the season and secured its end of the field as the offense continues to pressure and do its part in getting on the scoreboard for the win.

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The scoreboard would not light up until the second half on Thursday night for the Grizzlies, despite first-half pressure and chances. Oakland came close with a header by Rickard that just missed and a commanding shot by Dudley. Earlier in the game, Horizon League Tournament MVP Gerald Ben tried to connect with First-Team Tournament Joey Tinnion in continued pressure against the Wildcats.

The lights on the OU side of the scoreboard would light up in the 55th minute when All-Tournament Cody Archibald snipped the ball into the net at the far post with a header off a precise corner kick from fellow All-Tournament John DeLeon.

Another jolt struck the Wildcat defense in the 61st minute, when another All-Tournament performer, Gavin Hoy, mazed through defenders and found the upper-post to secure the 2-0 lead. Mink would make two saves on the night, including a diving one, and the offense outshot Kentucky 10-6.

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The win gave chills to all from the excitement of moving on, but to one of the hard-working assistants on staff, John Timm, it also brought chills of another kind. The staff, which includes Andy Wagstaff, Stephen Gorton, Timm and Peter Langens have played vital supporting roles in helping Pogue and the team get on, and stay on, the path to success. Sometimes this path needs some fun encouragement or rewards, and Timm stepped up to do just that on Thursday.

Timm jumped into this role, literally. He told the team that if they beat Kentucky, he would jump into the possibly frozen, yet definitely cold, hotel pond, and they were delighted to ensure that it would happen. This "Grizzly Plunge" is an example of the lengths in which the staff will go to help this team, and how much they believe in them. 

This feat, however, brings the question, "What will JT do after a win at Michigan State?" 

This display of an enjoyable break after the team's hard work just goes to show that they are a team that is tightly bonded. Pogue makes sure that team bonding is a priority and also provides a true family atmosphere throughout the season. This process is just one of the factors that are a part of Oakland's character and can be seen in their success.

View: NCAA Tournament bracket

The win was a huge victory for the Grizzlies, but they will continue to take this tournament one game at a time. Their sights are now set on the Spartans. Oakland is happy about the opportunity to play in their home state in front of their own fans, who are expected to make the trip to East Lansing wearing the black and gold.

Kickoff for the second-round NCAA Division 1 matchup between Oakland University and Michigan State is at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets can be found on Michigan State's website.

The winner of this matchup will face the winner of Sunday's matchup between Furman and Washington in the third round, which will be played at East Lansing's DeMartin Stadium on Nov. 30th.