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'He’s been so important for us for a lot of years:' Austin Panchot providing a spark for Indiana men's soccer

When the Hoosiers have needed a spark on offense to jolt them into gear, senior midfielder Austin Panchot has been there to provide it.

Indiana is peaking at the right time as they head into the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals against Notre Dame. Panchot has been one of those players who have helped the Hoosiers play some of their best soccer of the season. He may have been quiet early in the season, but with the amount of games in his Indiana career numbered, he’s increasing his level of play as the games dwindle down.

But for Panchot, ever since it’s been win or go home in the postseason, the form he has been in has only gone up. What’s been the difference in his play? Well to Panchot, it’s just the players around him.

“We all work hard for each other and feed off each other’s energy and it’s all connecting right now,” Panchot said. “We’ve had a whole season our momentum going and I think we’re all clicking on all cylinders, so I’m just apart of the team on that front.”

The Hoosiers currently sit three wins away from that elusive ninth national championship in program history. There is definitely something to be said about a team playing its best soccer when the season is winding down. That is certainly the case for the team. And while that is the case for the team, it certainly is the case for Panchot too.

After scoring his fourth goal of the season Sunday and his first since September 30, it highlighted just how important Panchot has been, not only all season, but especially in the past few weeks. He’s arguably playing some of the best soccer of his career. According to IU coach Todd Yeagley, he’s also the fittest guy on the field, as well.

“There is no one who puts more energy on the field than Panchot,” Yeagley said after Sunday’s match. “That’s a fit Air Force group with their altitude advantage and all that, and Panchot may have been the fittest guy on the field. He’s relentless.”

That relentless attitude and work rate has served Panchot well throughout his career. While he wasn’t necessarily a starter throughout the regular season, he has started the last six matches. It’s no coincidence that the St. Louis native has played his best soccer in that span.

“He’s been so important for us for a lot of years, but in particular, his form offensively and final pass and decision making has really been fine-tuned,” Yeagley said. “It’s like it’s all coming together at the right time. He’s shown great spurts of that throughout his career.”

When Panchot scored IU’s first goal Sunday against Air Force, it wasn’t anything special. It was more a right place, right time type of occasion for Panchot. Trevor Swartz sent the ball into the middle of the box. When Justin Rennicks couldn’t get a foot on it, Panchot could. All he had to do was tap the ball into the back of the net.

While it may have been a simple goal, it was all about his anticipation and being there when his team needed him.

“You want to assume that it’s getting through and I’m always trying to be there,” Panchot said. “Luckily this time it ended up coming to me. I always try to get in the right position and finish off the play.”

As the Hoosiers move forward, Panchot’s role, while maybe not the most vital on the field, differentiates the Hoosiers from a good team to a great one. The team feeds off what he brings and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“He starts our pressure up the field and no one does it like he does,” Yeagley said. “Everyone feeds off that.”

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