Courtesy: Tim Fitzgerald/CMU Athletics
Junior Skylar VanNatta scored her first career goal in a 2-1 OT loss to No. 20 Michigan State at home on Sunday afternoon.
CMU Loses 2-1 OT Battle to No. 20 Michigan State

MOUNT PLEASANT - The Central Michigan field hockey team nearly took down a ranked opponent for the second time this season, but fell in overtime, 2-1, to No. 20 Michigan State at the CMU Field Hockey Complex Sunday afternoon.

The Chippewas (7-9, 3-1 MAC) scored a late first-half goal on a battle in front of the cage that was tipped in by junior midfielder Skylar VanNatta for her first career goal to tie the match with the Spartans (10-8), and the CMU defense held strong to not allow another goal until the second minute of overtime.

“We knew we had our work cut out for us, but I was very pleased because I thought we went with them toe-to-toe and we had some good chances in the second half that we couldn’t convert,” head coach Cristy Freese said.

Michigan State’s Abby Barker received the ball in the circle on a breakaway in the second minute of overtime, defended tightly by senior goalkeeper Anastasia Netto who could not prevent the Spartans’ leading scorer from netting her second goal of the game and the game-winner as she fired it from the center near the outer edge of the circle.

Senior back Emily Girasole ensured the overtime period for the Chippewas when she cleared a MSU penalty corner with no time remaining in the second half to end regulation. The overtime game was the second of the weekend for the Chippewas, who also defeated defending MAC champion and then-MAC co-leader Ohio in overtime on Friday.

“I think how well we played Friday really carried over into today’s match,” Freese said. “When we had an end-of-the-game penalty corner I felt a lot of confidence in our team that we weren’t going to let anything happen.”

The Chippewas controlled possession for much of the match, particularly in the first half when they outshot the Spartans 7-5. Each side ended the match with ten shots on goal, and the Spartans held a slight 18-15 total shots advantage.

VanNatta’s game-tying goal at the 34:25 mark came after a series of CMU shots were batted around in the circle. Junior forward Bailey McKeon took a shot that was saved, then junior midfielder Abby Roth took a shot that was saved, but the rebound came to VanNatta who pushed it into the cage.

The goal is her first of the season. Roth was credited with the assist.

Michigan State’s Barker put the Spartans up 1-0 with her first goal of the game six minutes earlier in the 29th minute. Netto saved two consecutive shots by Barker, but could not save a third as Barker found the back of the cage. Netto made eight saves on the afternoon.

McKeon nearly tied the game in the 32nd minute with a one-on-one breakaway against MSU goalkeeper Molly Cassidy, but Cassidy was able to save the McKeon shot.

Possession was more even between the two teams in the second half, with the Spartans outshooting CMU 12-8. Netto made five saves in the second half to give the Chippewas a shot at their second overtime win of the weekend following Friday’s 2-1 win against Ohio.

Sophomore forward Cayleigh Immelman had an opportunity to give the Chippewas a 2-1 lead in the 54th minute when she burst up the far side of the field and into the circle, but her shot from just outside the goalkeeper went wide into the side of the cage.

The Chippewas will play for a regular-season MAC Championship when they host Kent State Saturday at noon.

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