The base for Oakland University’s stunning upset of No. 24 Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA men’s soccer tournament began a few weeks ago when the Golden Grizzlies turned more defensive-minded.
The team went more than 500 minutes without giving up a goal as it went on a 9-1-2 run after an 0-5-1 start. After Thursday night’s 2-0 win over Kentucky, Oakland (10-6-3) goes after another giant on the road. It will play 1 p.m. Sunday at No. 3 seed Michigan State (11-4-5), who was ranked as high as No. 10 in the nation this season, at De Martin Stadium.
Cody Archibald (Marine City) and Gavin Hoy scored second-half goals against Kentucky. But it was defense that carried the team again. Oakland recorded its eighth shutout of the season, which included a school-record six in a row after changing formations. The Grizzlies played an attacking 4-4-2 formation but switched to a 4-5-1 to control the midfield and protect its goalie more.
The Kentucky game was like a heavyweight match as both teams missed good scoring chances. In the 55th minute Archibald headed in a corner kick from John DeLeon (Novi) and in the 61st minute Hoy intercepted a pass and weaved through the Kentucky defense for an insurance goal.
“All the adversity that we went through at the beginning of the season allowed us to come together,” Oakland coach Eric Pogue said. “When you go through adversity you either crumble or build a strong foundation. I don’t think if we didn’t go through the trials and tribulations that we would be here today not just in the second round of the playoff but believing we deserve to be there and think we can compete and be in the Sweet 16.”
Oakland never has advanced to the Sweet 16. Its only other tournament victory came against Michigan State in 2007.