The 2019 Indiana Men’s Soccer season was expected to lack clarity in the beginning of the year.
One game through, and that expectation held true.
Despite only returning one starter from last season, the Hoosiers came into the year ranked No. 2 in the country and did return a number of players with experience from a run to the College Cup just a season ago.
It wasn’t any of the returning players, or even the lone returning starter, Jack Maher, a sophomore and Preseason All-American, that made the difference though in a 3-2 overtime win over Pittsburgh at home for the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic.
Rather, it was the Hoosiers’ freshmen that led the way for the team in the comeback win. Indiana Head Coach Todd Yeagley elected to start three freshmen for the game, including forwards Josh Penn and Victor Bezerra, as well as midfielder Aidan Morris.
“The older guys have realized how important these young guys are to this team and they’re going to have to keep bringing them along to give them the confidence to make plays,” Yeagley said.
Six total freshmen played in the game too, including freshman forward Herbert Endeley, who scored the Golden Goal in the second overtime period to seal Indiana’s first win of the season.
The goal came in the 103rd minute on a breakaway along the left side of the field following a beautiful ball to Endeley from junior A.J. Palazzolo.
Endeley’s goal preserved a streak of now five straight home opening wins at Bill Armstrong Stadium for Indiana.
“It feels amazing,” Endeley said on scoring the goal. “There’s not many better opportunities to score your first goal for IU than a Golden Goal winner. It felt amazing, one of the best moments of my life.”
Coach Yeagley was certainly impressed with the young man’s effort as well.
“I’m really happy for Herb, he’s a great young kid,” Yeagley said. “For a freshman around the keeper like that, to keep his composure for the finish is excellent.”
Endeley wasn’t the only youngster to score either. In fact, two of three Indiana’s goals came from the first-year players.
After a dismal first half where Pittsburgh’s Edward Kizza manhandled IU’s backline with two goals, seven seconds apart in the 36th minute, Indiana needed a spark. It came off the foot of Penn in the 50th minute.
Penn’s first collegiate goal was exactly what the team needed and from that moment on, Indiana looked like a brand-new club. Ian Black’s goal to equalize came only seven minutes after Penn’s.
“It was a great feeling, obviously it was important for the team,” Penn said. “It was good to get us going right away.”
IU was going to need new faces to step up after losing so much talent from a season ago, but one game through, and the freshmen who saw the pitch already look on-par with the upperclassmen.
With the three freshmen starters being ranked as four-star and Top 100 recruits, the expectations were high. One night through, they met them. Growing pains and typical freshmen mistakes are bound to happen, but Coach Yeagley has a great foundation of young talent not only for this season, but years in advance.
Penn credited the freshmen class’ early success to the acceptance from the upperclassmen.
“From the first day of preseason you could see that the entire group is really hungry,” he saId. “I think a big part of that was the upperclassmen are super accepting and giving us roles right away, so nobody really has nerves coming in.”