29 Oct Jeff Hosler makes immediate impact with Michigan State women’s soccer
It is only Jeff Hosler’s first season at the helm of the Michigan State women’s soccer team, but to say the veteran coach has made an immediate impact with the program is a massive understatement.
After a 1-10-1 record a year ago under Tom Saxton, who retired after 30 years at the helm, Hosler came over from Division II Grand Valley State and flipped things around instantly, leading the Spartans to a 10-4-3 record and a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten this fall.
On top of that, MSU qualified for the Big Ten tournament for the first time since 2011 and is hosting a tournament match Sunday for the first time since 2002, as the Spartans take on Iowa at 1 p.m. at DeMartin Stadium.
“This group has bought in and come together as a team as we’re trying to get things started here,” Hosler said. “To finish fourth in the Big Ten when it’s widely regardest as the second-toughest conference in the country this year, it’s pretty remarkable.”
Hosler brought championship pedigree to MSU — he won three national titles at Grand Valley State in his six seasons there. But translating that success in DII to the Big Ten and the Division I level required buy-in from players, especially the upperclassmen.
It did help Hosler that he already knew a number of the players, either recruiting them in high school or working with them through the Michigan Olympic Development Program. But getting the upperclassmen on board with a different methodology, along with new ideas and approaches, was vital.
Going unbeaten in nonconference play (4-0-2) and then winning the Big Ten opener against a ranked Indiana squad got the players to believe, Hosler said.
“Once you win a couple of games early, and that momentum continues to carry over, confidence and belief starts to develop and special things can happen,” Hosler said.
Hosler has also implemented advanced analytics. The program uses two software systems for metrics, analytics along with a different system altogether to gather physical data, which gives the program “a more professional approach to player development and the overall schemes of the team,” Hosler said.
Hosler also brought along one of his players from Grand Valley — graduate transfer Ava Cook. And the senior forward became the Spartans’ talisman from the first day, leading the team in goals (7) and assists (3) while finishing second in the Big Ten in shots (70).
Cook earned second-team All-Big Ten honors, after tallying an absurd 76 goals and 31 assists in 84 matches over four years at Grand Valley — including 29 goals in 2019 when GVSU won the national title.
“I think her last two years at Grand Valley were as dominant as any player at that level during my time in Division II,” Hosler said. “She’s big, she’s tall, she’s strong, she’s incredibly tough, she’s left-footed but also creative on the ball and finds herself in really dangerous positions in front of goal. And because of those physical attributes, she’s a handful to deal with.”
Hosler also believes Cook will be a future pro, in NWSL or elsewhere.
Leading MSU’s back line is junior goalkeeper Lauren Kozal, who had a breakout season this fall, winning the Big Ten’s Goalkeeper of the Year award. Kozal has kept seven clean sheets this season and leads the league in save percentage (.862) while placing second in saves per game (4.41) and goals-against average (.0495).
“She’s always trying to find a way to connect with her teammates and I think that development of her leadership is a big part of what’s helped her be the player she can be this year,” Hosler said. “The players in front of her play harder for a goalkeeper like that.
“The numbers speak for themselves.”
Senior defender Samantha White was also a second-team all-league selection, part of a defensive unit that’s only allowed 12 goals in 17 matches.
East Lansing is home to Hosler. He attended high school there, then went on to Alma College, and was then an assistant at East Lansing for three years, part of the staff that won a state championship in 2005. He was then the head coach at Alma College before taking the GVSU job.
Hosler hopes to see a packed DeMartin Stadium on Sunday for the Iowa game. The Spartans won the regular season match, 2-1, scoring two late goals. With plenty of MSU fans in town for Saturday’s game vs. Michigan, Hosler wants to see some of that school spirit trickle over to the soccer side
“Things like this don’t come around very often,” Hosler said. “Both teams have a lot to play for, trying to seek a championship. We put ourselves in a position, with another result or two, to be in the NCAA tournament for the first time in a long time. These kids have worked incredibly hard and it’s great to see some of that finally be recognized.”
Contact digital sports reporter Phil Friend at 517-377-1220 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Phil_Friend.
If You Go
Who: Michigan State vs. Iowa
What: Big Ten tournament quarterfinals
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: DeMartin Stadium, East Lansing
Credit: Source link