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Set pieces continue to prove important for Indiana

Indiana has scored three of its six goals on the season off of set-piece plays, an area of the Hoosiers’ game plan that is emphasized in training.

IU’s latest set-piece goal came from an in-swinging ball from senior midfielder Trevor Swartz, which met the head of senior Andrew Gutman at the near post. It would be the only goal of the game for both sides and the only goal IU needed to secure a victory over No. 18 Connecticut on Sunday night.

“I think this season, we’re very organized and mature team,” Swartz said following the win Sunday night. “Our ending spots on runs have been perfect. Gutman, today, headed that thing in powerfully, but it was just working on it over summer. I’ve been hitting balls in good spots. When you practice, it usually works well in the game.”

It has been working well for the Hoosiers as half of their goals have come from restarts. IU Head Coach Todd Yeagley has put an emphasis on set pieces for years at Indiana, and taking advantage of them has paid off in the past.

The Hoosiers are familiar with successful free kicks and corner kicks throughout the past two years. Mason Toye converted a free kick to beat Wisconsin last season in the middle of Big Ten play to give IU an overtime win. Gutman was on the end of a corner kick that led to the game-winning goal against North Carolina last season in the College Cup as well.

Yeagley said he understands the importance of every set piece and admits during tough stretches in the season, they can make or break games for any team, including Indiana.

“That’s a key thing, especially as the season gets tighter and tighter, the games, the margins are small,” Yeagley said. “Restarts are often the difference as they were at our College Cup run last year.”

Restarts have already made a difference to this season’s results for the Hoosiers. A free kick header met by sophomore AJ Palazzolo was the difference against North Carolina in just the second game of the season.

It was a weekend filled with two matches against top-five opponents on the road, and like Yeagley said, restarts were the difference in one of those games.

When you look at Indiana this season compared to last year, there’s a lot of continuity with the players who are usually involved on set pieces. Although Grant Lillard has departed from Indiana, senior Timmy Mehl and freshman center back Jack Maher both stand at over six-feet tall.

Gutman has already gotten on the end of two corner kicks and put them into the back of the net, and he did the same at times last season.

Palazzolo brings a different dynamic to wherever he is placed on the field, and Swartz is still on the assisting end of free kicks, just like last season. Swartz said he knows set pieces are a strength to the team, and continuing to work on them in practice has helped the team’s development.

“It’s been pretty much the same,” Swartz said. “I know Gutman was the back post run into Grant’s spot this year, and he’s been doing a great job with that transition so hopefully he gets on the end of more.”

IU has three more games against ranked opponents at this point in the season left on its schedule. It doesn’t get easier for the Hoosiers before that either.

A stretch that sees the Hoosiers travel to Kentucky and Michigan is in the middle of Big Ten play. Before going on the road against Rutgers and Ohio State, the Hoosiers have to get through No. 11 Butler, who gave IU fits last season in Indianapolis.

It’s a tough road to the end of the season, but Yeagley and company know if they want to win big games against tough opponents, they have the recipe for success.

“Restarts win games,” Yeagley said. “We always say that.”

Michael Ramirez

I am a junior from Dallas, Texas, and am currently studying Media in the Media School and minoring in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management in the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. I worked for the Indiana Daily Student for the past two years where I covered men’s basketball, men’s soccer, water polo and cross country. I also served as the Sports Editor in the Spring of 2018. I am a member/radio host for WIUX, and I host a weekly podcast to talk anything and everything sports. Past internships include Digital Content for FC Dallas and sports reporting for Star Local Media. You can reach me at michrami@iu.edu or on Twitter @michrami_ for all your Dallas and Tottenham sports takes.

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