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Three Takeaways: Hoosier defense stands strong as offense searches for production

Indiana faces off against rival Purdue this Sunday. (Bailey Wright/HN)

The Indiana women’s soccer team hit the road for a matchup with the Maryland Terrapins on Oct. 17 after winning three of four games in Big Ten play. Stingy defenses from both sides resulted in a draw in a game that produced 36 shots.

The most dangerous chance for the Hoosiers came in the 80th minute when Melanie Forbes received a cross into the box, but was unable to convert. Indiana had a quick turnaround on Oct. 20 in Piscataway versus no. 22 Rutgers where an overtime goal from Nneka Moneme defeated the Hoosiers 1-0.

With these results, Indiana moved to 7-7-2 overall and 3-4-2 in the Big Ten.

Three storylines stood out in Indiana’s most recent road trip:

The defense will always be there

Head coach Erwin van Bennekom has made it clear all season that Indiana will win games with the strength of its defense. The Hoosiers’ back line of Allison Jorden, Oliwia Wos, Hannah Nemeth and Meghan Scott held its own yet again this weekend, allowing only one goal on 37 shots in its two games.

Indiana hasn’t allowed more than one goal since its 2-0 loss to Nebraska on Sept. 22. The key to this defensive success, according to van Bennekom, comes from organization and communication. While he was unhappy with the team’s ability to keep possession, the defense was still there.

“On the flip side, I’m very happy with our defensive organization and the way we transitioned after losing the ball,” van Bennekom said.

While the defense played well this weekend, van Bennekom thinks the team failed to continue growth, especially versus Maryland.

“Honestly we are all very disappointed with the performance [versus Maryland],” van Bennekom said. “I felt we never got close to our level from the last few weeks, especially in ball possession. Because we lost the ball so much it became too much of transition game.”

Bethany Kopel etches her name in IU history books

While the backline has received praise in Indiana’s wins, Bethany Kopel is putting together one of her best seasons as a Hoosier. In 16 games played, she has only allowed 13 goals and has saved 50 shots.

Against Maryland, Kopel claimed sole possession of second place in career saves in Indiana women’s soccer history with 230. She improved her career save total to 235 after the Hoosiers’ 1-0 loss to Rutgers.

The Hoosiers’ 0-0 result versus Maryland marked their eighth shutout of the season and fifth in Big Ten play. Kopel has also only allowed more than one goal in four of the Hoosiers’ 16 games this season.

Hoosiers continue to search for offensive production

Defense has won games for Indiana, but only when its offense is producing. In its past nine games, Indiana has only scored three goals. Van Bennekom has discussed the team’s struggles with finishing opportunities throughout the season, and this road trip was no different.

The Hoosiers had 15 shot attempts versus Maryland, but only six shots were on goal in their 0-0 draw. Against Rutgers, Indiana’s attack never got going, as it only had four shots all game with one shot on goal. Forward Chandra Davidson only had three shot attempts in both of Indiana’s games during this road trip.

While the box score for the Hoosiers versus no. 22 Rutgers may seem abysmal offensively, van Bennekom’s overall conclusion is deeper than the surface. Indiana showed, yet again, that it can compete with the top teams in the Big Ten. 

“I’m very proud of the commitment from our team to how we play and what we do, especially in ball possession,” van Bennekom said. “We battled and defended well all game long and had some really good moments in possession.”

Looking ahead, the Hoosiers have their final home game of the season on Oct. 27 when conference rival Purdue comes to town. The Boilermakers will enter this game with a 6-8-3 record overall and 2-6-2 in the Big Ten. This game will start at 1 p.m. Eastern and can be seen on BTN+.

Indiana sits squarely in the middle of the Big Ten rankings, but could overtake Maryland with a win and a Terrapin loss. Going forward, it will be important for the Indiana offensive attack to finish opportunities, as its defense has shown it can shut down nearly any opponent.

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My name is Jack Ankony and I am a sophomore from Mount Prospect, Illinois. I am a huge Chicago sports fan who loves to write and talk about sports.

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