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Indiana women’s soccer gains confidence — and a big win — against Iowa

An early lead is just the confidence the Hoosiers needed in a big game, as the team had a strong bounce-back 2-0 victory against the reigning Big Ten tournament champion Iowa Hawkeyes. 

A defensive clinic like this against a very good team helps the Hoosiers get right back on track after a loss to Michigan State last week, head coach Erwin van Bennekom said.

“I think it was a great performance after last week,” van Bennekom said. “I couldn’t wait for this game to be honest. I’m so proud of the team on how we responded. Obviously getting three points in this league, and grinding it out against tournament champions is a big one. So we are going to enjoy this for about three seconds and then move on.”

Forward Anna Bennett got Indiana off to just the start the Hoosiers needed, as she put the ball in the back right corner of the net and put IU up 1-0 only five minutes into the game. Iowa goalie Monica Wilhelm sure felt the pressure early on, and the fast start gave the team confidence offensively, Bennett said.

“I think we just see what we can do,” Bennett said. “I think Sunday [against Michigan State] was a mistake on our part of not scoring any. Now I think we know we can score goals, so we just need to learn that.”

Van Bennekom wanted the team to slow down a little bit after that quick offensive surge, as that is typical of this team once they get going on offense. In doing that, the defense looked sharp early on as well. The forwards and even midfielders applied some great ball pressure and got some steals from the Iowa offense and kept the ball away from goalkeeper Jaime Gurstenberg.

The offensive surge for the Hoosiers would not stop there, as Paige Webber put in another goal for the Hoosiers to give the team a 2-0 lead. With 15 minutes to go in the half, Indiana looked very comfortable on offense, leading the Hawkeyes 6-1 in shots on goal. In a physical game like Michigan State was on Sunday with six fouls thus far, it was evident that the Hoosiers were already adjusting to the pressure and looking like a much better team.

Whatever Iowa’s game plan was offensively, Indiana had an answer for it. The Hoosier defense was all inside the passing lanes and kicking balls away to the other side of the field. This frustrated the Hawkeyes, and Indiana went into the locker room with a comfortable 2-0 lead over last year’s Big Ten tournament champions.

The Hoosier defense continued to play a phenomenal game in the second half, shutting down the Hawkeye offense. The back line looked the best it has all season, poking the ball away from Iowa and severely limited scoring opportunities. 

Iowa began to make a push toward the end of the second half, and van Bennekom made some adjustments by getting some subs in the game. The Hawkeyes had some very close chances, but Gurstenberg made some massive saves to keep Iowa with a goose egg on the scoreboard. Van Bennekom said he’s proud of the efforts the freshman goalie has shown thus far in the season. 

Indiana claimed its seventh victory on the season, improving its record to 7-2-1 on the season. The next test for Indiana will be against the Illinois Fighting Illini in the final game in this three-game home stretch. The Illini defeated the Hoosiers in last season’s matchup, so Indiana will need to come into this game with revenge on their mind in order to get back-to-back victories. Van Bennekom harped on the importance of Thursday’s win going forward.

“Three points in this league is important just to stay in the pack,” van Bennekom said. “…Now we have that confidence and need to prepare for Sunday.”

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