IU soccer’s spring season kicks into full gear this weekend when they welcome in the Saint Louis Billikens to Bill Armstrong Stadium on Saturday night.
Thus far the Hoosiers have played three matches in this spring season. On February 25, IU faced off against Valparaiso and Evansville, respectively earning 3-0 and 4-0 wins. Then on March 3, the Hoosiers faced off with USL side Swope Park Rangers, playing to a 2-2 draw.
After spring break and a mellow March, Saturday will be the first time they have played in over a month.
Here are a few things to look for heading into Saturday’s match and beyond.
Who are the replacements?
The Hoosiers had a very successful season in 2017. Because of that, there are bound to be a few departures. Grant Lillard was a certainty with him being a senior. But freshman forward Mason Toye heading to the draft was a toss up. Both are now in MLS.
That’s just college sports. Now the Hoosiers have to find replacements for two of their best players. However, the great thing about this IU soccer team is the depth Todd Yeagley has at his disposal.
The forward position is much more straightforward. Sophomores Justin Rennicks and Thomas Warr seem to be the clear frontrunners to slot in. Rennicks was hampered last season because of a foot injury while Warr played sparingly throughout the season.
This offseason, Rennicks was called into Tab Ramos’ United States Under-20 side in March. He also gave IU good minutes in the latter stage of the season and more notably in the College Cup Final.
Both could and should see time and will have a bit of weight on their shoulders to help replace Toye.
As for the backline, filling in for Lillard will be quite the task. Two names that could slot in at his center back position are redshirt-sophomore AJ Palazzolo and redshirt-freshman Jacob Meier.
Both Meier and Palazzolo didn’t play a season ago. Palazzolo was recovering from injury while Meier redshirted and learned. But in 2018, they both could get the chance to impress and Saturday seems like a good stage for an audition if both are ready.
Senior Class’ Last Chance
In 2017, the senior class was not a very big group. It was just three players and only one starter.
But in 2018, the Hoosiers will see most likely see eight players leave due to graduation. Of those eight players, on most nights, all eight of them could start.
The senior class includes defenders Timmy Mehl, Andrew Gutman and Rece Buckmaster and midfielders Trevor Swartz, Austin Panchot, Jeremiah Gutjahr, Frankie Moore and Cory Thomas.
PODCAST: @IndianaMSOC‘s @aandrewgutman joined the pod to talk about the past, present and future of Indiana soccer and how he ended up in Bloomington for the Hoosiers. Take a listen. #iums #CF97 https://t.co/t2vNdawmK4 pic.twitter.com/ElzUMO5tgv
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) February 19, 2018
When The HN talked with Gutman before the spring season got underway, he explained how hungry this senior class would be heading into the 2018 season. The Hoosiers have had a good amount of success in while this senior class has been in Bloomington, but they haven’t necessarily had anything tangible to show for it.
No Big Ten regular season title, no Big Ten Tournament title and no National Championship.
This is their last chance. This storyline will be talked about plenty moving forward, but how those players perform in 2018 will heavily dictate how the Hoosiers fare in 2018. Saturday will be a chance to see how hungry they are before the season begins in August.
The senior class will play a major part in IU’s success in 2018. However, when the Hoosiers need a pick-me-up, it will come from their bench.
Yeagley has a lot of options to choose from when it comes to that. Midfielder Spencer Glass was a dynamic player for the Hoosiers last season on the wing. He figures to be a nice player for IU once again.
Joe Schmidt and Ian Black could also give IU some good minutes off the bench.
With the senior class making up a majority of the starting XI, it will be interesting to see how Yeagley uses his bench. There isn’t a bevy of experience there, which makes the Spring season a good time for some of those players to get some run.
Look for some newer to potentially get on the pitch Saturday vs. Saint Louis.
Last season, IU’s freshman class was highly thought of and they lived up to that hype.
Coming into 2018, only one of those players left the program. Returning will be Rennicks and Warr, both mentioned above, along with Griffin Dorsey and Trey Muse.
It’s almost unfair that the latter two get mentioned last, but that’s because IU knows the quality play they get from that duo. Dorsey will create havoc on the wings while Muse is a stalwart in goal.
There was a bit of uncertainty as to whether they would return for their sophomore season, but the Hoosiers have to feel good about them deciding to stay. They will no doubt be major playmakers in 2018.
The Hoosiers face off against Saint Louis Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in Bloomington. Following Saturday’s match, the Hoosiers will play Butler and Notre Dame on April 13 and 22, respectively, before facing off against the Mexico Youth National Team back in Bloomington on April 29.