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Indiana soccer is learning from its mistakes — and that’s scary

Trevor Swartz takes a corner during IU’s match with Butler. (Mark Timko/HN)

Senior midfielder Trevor Swartz walked into his postgame interview following the No. 2 Hoosiers’ 1-0 victory over Michigan State beaming with joy.

The Hoosiers finally found a way to get a piece of hardware to show for all their hard work. That wasn’t the case last season when they finished the regular season undefeated and still failed to secure first place in the Big Ten.

Swartz and the rest of his senior class has experienced everything but a Big Ten title. They’ve reached the mountaintop of college soccer, but fell in the 2017 championship game against Stanford.

That loss, and constant failure to secure a trophy in 2017, is why this season’s team is different. Throughout the year, many players have reiterated the same collective goal. They want to win a Big Ten regular season championship, a Big Ten tournament championship, and the national title.

That hunger for greatness stems back to the heartbreak these Hoosiers endured three separate times last season. They couldn’t win either of the Big Ten titles nor the national championship. Now, they’re making sure it doesn’t happen again.

The big difference between last season and this one? They’re keeping it loose while dominating.

The Hoosiers have learned from their mistakes and bounced back in big ways each time they suffered their two losses in 2018. IU took down a top-five North Carolina squad after losing in overtime against Wake Forest to start the season. It then earned a Big Ten road win over Michigan after the 3-0 defeat to then-No. 4 Kentucky.

It’s hard to bounce back from a 3-0 loss on the road to a fellow top-five team, but the Hoosiers did it against a tough Michigan squad on the road. And it all starts with Swartz and the rest of his senior class. It then trickles down to the talented young players IU has on its roster.

“I think it was a wake-up call more than anything,” Moore said. “It’s weird to say that a loss was good for us, but I think it really was good for us knowing that we can be beaten on off days. In the past two years, we haven’t really lost games. Playing against Kentucky, and losing the way we did, it was a good reminder that if we don’t bring our A-game every single game and respect our opponent — being our best — that can happen.”

The relationships and chemistry built into the squad is what also makes the team better. Swartz joked about being frustrated that sophomore attacker Justin Rennicks stole his big moment against Michigan State. Swartz scored a diving header in the dying moments of regulation, but it was called offside, so the goal was disallowed. In overtime, Rennicks scored a tap-in five feet from the touch line, securing the win for the Hoosiers.

The fact that these players are joking between themselves on goals and glory is scary.

It’s scary because it wasn’t openly joked about last season. It couldn’t be openly joked about because IU had nothing to show for its dominance — the Hoosiers didn’t have a Big Ten trophy or national title.

This time around, they do. And there’s a lot more happiness around this team than there was last year.

The Hoosiers are having fun and dominating at the same time. This is a team that started all eight seniors Sunday afternoon and still had plenty of talent come off the bench. Now, momentum is on their side — IU’s won its last six games to finish the season.

Everything is clicking at just the right time, and even though the Hoosiers will be without Rennicks and his sophomore teammate Griffin Dorsey for the foreseeable future, there’s still plenty of pieces IU has to fill the void.

But for now, the Hoosiers can bask in Big Ten glory. They’re the first team in Big Ten history to finish conference play 8-0 and win the regular season title.

The only question-mark that looms over the Hoosiers is how far they can go in postseason play. They return almost every player from last season’s College Cup team. If there’s any indicator of how successful this team can be, it’s in how they were able to respond during times of adversity.

This time, the players are keeping it loose and still winning on a consistent basis. They can afford to do that this season — the Hoosiers finally have a trophy to their name.

“They know how to have a good time, and they know when to keep it focused and serious,” IU coach Todd Yeagley said. “That’s because the seniors have had the experience of how to do that. It’s fun to be around 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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