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‘It’s why you come to Indiana:' Freshman Jack Maher is ready for his first College Cup

Freshman defender Jack Maher is just trying to focus on small details.

He doesn’t have to do a whole lot to get ready for Indiana’s College Cup match against Maryland on Friday.

After all, he’s previously been in big moments like these. And his transition into college soccer has been seamless. Indiana has shut out opponents 15 times this season, and a large part to that success has been Maher’s readiness along the back line with the rest of his senior teammate defenders.

So, Maher is focusing on the little things heading into this weekend. Besides winning the national championship, one of his personal goals is to be as perfect as he can for his team.

He’s the only starter in Indiana’s lineup that didn’t play in last year’s College Cup, and he knows how much it would mean to the seniors and veteran players to win it all this time around. Maher’s taking a selfless approach. He wants to see his teammates be successful before earning his own accomplishments in Santa Barbara, California.

“I’m really looking forward to the whole environment — everything that comes with the College Cup,” Maher said. “There’s a lot of distractions out there, and I really just want to stay focused and do whatever I can to help this team win it all.”

Even though he will be playing in the most important games of his young career, Maher is treating the College Cup like just another match to get ready for. In fact, Friday’s match isn’t even what he’s looking forward to the most during the team’s trip out west. When asked about what he’s most excited for this weekend, Maher responding quickly and enthusiastically.

“Being with this group of guys,” Maher said. “We got a great team and a group of seniors that are just incredible. I’ve learned so much from them, just what it’s meant to me and being a freshman. Being with this group of guys is incredible, and it’s something that’s unfortunately coming to an end, but I know that these next few days are going to be really special.”

Maher is going to soak the environment in when Indiana touches down in California, but once he steps on the pitch, it’s just another game.

The freshman has played in these types of games before during his high school and academy days growing up. In 2017, he made his United Soccer League debut with Saint Louis FC, and on top of that, has experience with the United States Men’s National Team in tournaments overseas.

His prior experience is why IU Coach Todd Yeagley brought him to IU, and it’s why he’s confident Maher will be just as good as he’s been all season when the Hoosiers face the Terrapins on Friday.

“He’s as best as he could be— ready,” Yeagley said. “Certainly, Timmy [Mehl] and the others have more experience, but Jack’s experience with the USL team, with the Youth National Team has accelerated his readiness in these big moments.”

Maher has already gone up against the best attackers in college soccer this season, and it all started with Indiana’s first match of the season — on the road against a top-five Wake Forest team. In just the first few minutes of that match, Maher already looked well beyond his years, and the coaching staff has praised his ability throughout the season.

No matter the opponent, Maher always seems to be ready for the moment. When asked about his readiness at the college level, the coaching staff gives the same answer — he doesn’t play like a freshman. Yeagley said the only advice he’s given Maher this week was just telling him what Maryland’s tendencies are.

As good as Indiana’s defense has been in 2018, the secret to its success has been the chemistry that’s been built between Maher and the rest of the back line. Like the coaches have said, he doesn’t play like a freshman, and Maher said he’s as ready as he’s ever been for this weekend.

“It’s our number one goal that we set at the beginning of the year,” Maher said. “It’s why I come to Indiana. These are the special moments that the coaching staff has said, 'This is our time, this is our moment.' This is why you come to Indiana — to win a national championship.”

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