Indiana hasn’t lost a regular season conference match in over four years.
Not since October 10, 2015 have the Hoosiers suffered a regular season defeat at the hands of a fellow Big Ten team, a 1-0 overtime loss to Ohio State.
In fact, it’s been since October of 2017 that IU has even dropped points in conference play.
It’s been an unprecedented run of success even for IU’s standards. In a conference that’s been heavily dominated by IU since it instituted soccer as a varsity sport, this is perhaps the most dominating stretch since the turn of the century.
Even in a year where there were so many question marks surrounding the Hoosiers, they remain the conference’s premier side.
On Sunday, it was another close call for IU. A narrow 1-0 victory over Michigan to move IU to 8-1-3 overall and 4-0 in conference play. But it was another sign that IU remains the team to beat in the Big Ten.
“There is no easy Big Ten game,” sophomore defender Jack Maher said. “It doesn’t matter the circumstance or who you’re playing. Every Big Ten game you have to take as a championship game. That’s something we’ve established in the program day in and day out.”
With an 110-minute affair with Kentucky Wednesday, IU had just three days to prep for Michigan, one of the conference’s most dynamic attacking teams.
IU elected to play back for the majority of the first half, but turned up the pressure in the second half with the wind in its favor.
Spencer Glass tallied his second goal of the season with a rocket top-corner in the 67th minute. It was the lone difference in a match marked by a solid defensive effort from the backline.
That makes back-to-back shutouts for IU, something that hasn’t happened all year.
“Clean sheets are something this program was built upon and something we haven’t been able to get up to the last few games,” Maher said. “We’re going to continue to build on that. With our backline playing as good as it has all year long, that just leads to more success going forward.”
Freshman goalkeeper Roman Celentano has now started three of four matches in conference play and four consecutive matches overall.
He’s got a vast amount of confidence in both his defense but also himself. His endless motor allows him to take some chances that Sean Caulfield potentially wouldn’t.
"We're still figuring out which guys can give us consistent minutes."
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) October 13, 2019
So far, it’s paid off in his favor and IU has outscored Big Ten opponents 7-2 in matches that Celentano has played.
“I got all the faith in the world in Roman,” Maher said. “He’s a fantastic player and he helped us so many times just by coming out and getting some of those balls. It took so much pressure off of us and let us slow the game down to get a 1-0 win.”
The Michigan win marked 12 consecutive conference regular season victories. That paired with last season’s Big Ten double and a two point lead over Penn State in the table with a game in hand makes IU the odds on favorite to repeat again.
Yet, none of that matters to IU coach Todd Yeagley. He’s been around the Big Ten long enough to know that nothing is safe in conference play. And he’s been around long enough to know that continued success is more important than a reflection on the past.
“In the middle of what you’re doing, you’re so in your zone of what’re you doing that the streak is irrelevant,” Yeagley said. “It’s a great thing for the program and I think everyone that’s played here is proud of some of the numbers, but we’re not winning the next one to continue the streak. We’re just winning to get points.”
IU’s halfway through the conference slate and it’s still perfect with four more Big Ten games to play. It’s no secret that the Big Ten, which has been riddled with injuries, is down this season.
It’s still IU’s conference to lose.
It doesn’t matter that Maryland, IU’s next opponent, is the defending National Champions and close on IU’s tail in the conference race.
IU has proven once and again that en route to a Big Ten title, you have to crack the code to IU’s success first.
“In Indiana, we’ve always got a target on our back,” Maher said. “That’s something we know and we like that. We like to get the teams’ best.”