After Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat against Kentucky, it was easy to read emotions.
Walking out of the Bell Soccer Complex, a few of us found ourselves behind Indiana midfielder Trevor Swartz. After a few moments, Swartz turned around and thanked us for making the drive to Kentucky to cover the match.
“Good game,” The Hoosier Network’s Zain Pyarali said.
With a painful cringe in his face, Swartz responded simply.
“…yup,” Swartz said.
It doesn’t take an astrophysicist to tell you that losing is never a good thing. Of course, Indiana would have preferred to win Wednesday against Kentucky, but they simply never even had a chance.
It’s a hard sentiment to truly get behind, but the Hoosiers’ 3-0 defeat to Kentucky doesn’t have to be considered a bad thing either.
It all seemingly started and ended in the third minute of the match when Kentucky’s JJ Williams blew by Indiana defender Timmy Mehl and finessed a ball into the bottom left corner of the net.
“Goals change games and I think there’s no doubt we started the first minute, the first minute and a half we lead on them,” IU Head Coach Todd Yeagley said. “We had kinda a good attack and it just kinda took the air out of the group which surprised me with some of the experience we have that it affected the group that much.”
Looking holistically at Indiana’s performance, it’s hard to truly describe what went wrong other than using the basic cop-out of saying that something was just off.
“It just took a little more urgency and a little sharper thoughts and just some better passing,” Yeagley said.
Up until this point, all the little things that define the success of a team had come easy to Indiana. As an observer to it all, these miniscule aspects of the game had become expected. On Wednesday, the little things that made this team special went to the wayside.
“This is a tournament team Kentucky and we can’t have the little details slip away,” Yeagley said.
Last season, the Hoosiers never trailed all season until the Elite Eight against Michigan State.
In the first few minutes against the Spartans, Ryan Sierakowski put Indiana in a completely foreign position. A position that would have never seen a response if it wasn’t for a miraculous goal directly from a corner by Swartz in the 60th minute.
Wednesday’s loss to Kentucky effectively killed the possibility of repeating that foreign feeling. In fact, with Indiana’s come-from-behind win against Northwestern and this unceremonious trouncing, the Hoosiers have now filled their rolodex with the adversity needed come tournament time.
This season wasn’t going to be perfect. There is no reason to ever assume that, even with the talent that fuels the program.
On Wednesday, one can argue that Indiana got lucky.
“I’ve seen this through the years,” Yeagley said. “There’s going to be a game where you’re just a little flat.”
It was inevitable that this team was going to come out flat at some point. What benefits Indiana is that flat performance came on the road in a non-conference game against the fourth best team in the nation. If you’re going to have a game to learn from, let it be this one, and not in one that deters you from your real goal.
“Obviously want to win the Big Ten regular season, Big Ten Tournament, and obviously the big one at the end the National Championship would be nice,” Indiana defender Rece Buckmaster said.
Now the Hoosiers face an incredibly important rebound opportunity in a match that actually has a bearing on the end goal. If the Hoosiers don’t learn from Wednesday’s failures, then we’ll have a different story on our hands. Then Indiana will have a real problem.
“We need to get this one behind us fast,” Yeagley said. “I’m not worried. They have a big game. You have a loss, you want another big game to follow…No bigger game than Michigan on the road.”