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'We've really pressed teams:' Indiana looks to use fast starts and experience vs. Notre Dame in Elite Eight

Indiana loves to start fast.

The No. 2-seeded Hoosiers have scored within the first 20 minutes of each match in both of their NCAA Tournament games. Indiana has been able to make opponents uncomfortable from the first whistle using a high press and constant pressure on the defensive end.

Indiana will look to reap off the benefits of this tactic once again this postseason when the No. 7-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish travel to Bloomington on Friday with a spot in the College Cup on the line.

Senior midfielder Trevor Swartz has noticed the difference between last year’s Elite Eight squad and this current one — experience and a willingness to get out on the front foot fast. Last season, the Hoosiers gave up a goal within the first two minutes of their Elite Eight match after Ryan Sierakowski headed in a near-post cross to give the Michigan State Spartans the lead in Bloomington. It was the first time Indiana had trailed at any point last season, and it was also a wake-up call.

“I think we came out a little flat, and we gave up a goal two minutes into the game,” Swartz said. “I think this year, just going into it, in the first two games we came out on the front foot. We’ve really pressed teams, and we’re going to look to do that again. Experience from last year will play into that.”

Experience has been key for the Hoosiers this postseason, playing a total of seven seniors in the starting 11 in their last match against Air Force. That experience will only help against an opponent as familiar as any for Indiana.

Notre Dame likes to play in a 4-4-2 formation. It’s been a staple for the Fighting Irish since any of the current Hoosiers can remember. Swartz has been accustomed to the way the Irish have played for his last four seasons.

He said he knows Indiana will have to exploit the space and gaps between each line of the formation. Successful quick touches and passing will be crucial to the Hoosiers’ success this Friday, especially in the midfield where Notre Dame likes to have control of the ball.

The Hoosiers are going to try and prevent the Irish from thriving within the middle of the field by using those quick touches like they have been all season long. It’s part of the reason why Indiana’s defense has been so suffocating, as well. During IU’s first match with Notre Dame, the Irish struggled to get anything going for the majority of the match, outside of their lone goal.

IU’s defense was arguably the strongest facet to its game plan in the last round against Air Force, who had a high-powered attack going into that match. Sophomore goalkeeper Trey Muse didn’t let any shots get by him Sunday afternoon, and he said he wants the team to only get better from that experience.

“It’s just building confidence each game and being able to beat good teams moving along in the tournament,” Muse said. “Being able to go against the two or three guys that they had was really good to keep them scoreless.”

Notre Dame’s Jack Lynn was the Irish’s lone goal-scorer last time these two teams met, and it was also the game-opener in the 71st minute. It was one of few opportunities that the Irish had all match, and Muse said limiting Notre Dame’s chances will be a main focus for the Hoosiers because of the amount of talent they have.

“We’re going to try and limit that and Notre Dame’s opportunities," Muse said. "With the rivalry and the talent that they have, it’s going to be difficult, so we’re going to be sharper and play better than we did in the first game.”

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