After a 2-0 road trip, the Indiana women’s soccer team will host a pair of games to kick off conference play this weekend versus No. 19 Iowa on Sept. 20 and Nebraska on Sept. 22.
The Hoosiers are riding a three-game win streak after a 2-1 win over UT Martin and a 1-0 win over Kentucky last week on the road. Oliwia Wos was the hero for Indiana, scoring an 86th-minute goal to complete a comeback versus UT Martin after trailing 1-0 at halftime. Avery Lockwood continued her personal success with an equalizing goal against UT Martin.
Following up this victory, all Indiana needed was a 17th-minute goal to take down Kentucky after Lockwood found Melanie Forbes for her first goal of the season. Head coach Erwin van Bennekom was happy with the way the team played in the first half versus Kentucky and thought the players fought hard in the second half to secure the win.
“Going on a five-day road trip against two great opponents in UT Martin and Kentucky and getting two wins is great,” van Bennekom said. “I appreciate all the effort and appreciate how our team fought all the way to the end. Coming home with two wins is a great feeling.”
While van Bennekom is pleased with these two wins, he knows Indiana will need to increase its level of play against Iowa.
“The last three wins, with all respect to those teams, I think they’re not even close to the level of Iowa, with all respect to those teams," he said.
Indiana improved its record to 4-3 on the season heading into its second matchup against a ranked team in No. 19 Iowa. Here are three keys for Indiana to continue its three-game win streak:
Limit Iowa’s attack
The Hawkeyes' strong offensive attack has propelled the team to an 8-0 start on the season, scoring three or more goals in five of the team’s eight games. This is a big jump from last season, as the team has already scored 25 goals this year, compared to just 20 last year.
Hannah Drkulec and Devin Burns lead the team with four goals each, followed by three goals each for Natalie Winters and Kaleigh Haus. The Hawkeyes possess elite depth with 13 goal-scorers on the year and 145 total shots, compared to just 89 from the Hoosiers.
In order for Indiana to contain this Iowa attack, it will be important for the entire team to defend as a unit, according to van Bennekom.
“We defend with 11 and we attack with 11,” van Bennekom said. “The way we stop them I think is defending from the front so it’s not just our back line and it’s not just the goalkeeper.”
Van Bennekom also recognizes Iowa’s ability to score off set pieces as something Indiana needs to focus on. He believes if the team can take Iowa out of these situations, they can take away a big part of their attack.
Defender Allison Jorden thinks defensive organization is key to stopping Iowa. Jorden thinks experience playing against North Carolina will help the team prepare for this matchup.
“In a few games, especially against some of the more dynamic offensive opponents, we have been great at all getting behind the ball and getting organized,” Jorden said.
Execute week-long preparation
While two road wins are sure to give any team confidence, van Bennekom believes the team’s confidence heading into conference play will come from preparation.
“We cannot look at UT Martin and Morehead State and Kentucky and say, ‘Oh, we won three and we feel good,’" he said. "I think it’s always nice to win three on the road, but I think that confidence comes from us being prepared.”
Van Bennekom hopes the team’s experience from playing Iowa last year will help, but is confident his scouting and preparation will make a difference. Being courageous on the ball and playing a clean game are two things van Bennekom is focusing on.
“I think we prepared well this week and we’re going to give it a shot,” van Bennekom said. “Congrats to Iowa and what they have done this season, but we’re looking forward to it.”
In Indiana’s game versus Morehead State on Sept. 8, Lockwood credited one of her goals to a shot the team had been working on in practice. It is this kind of execution this squad needs in order to pull off the upset.
Offensively, van Bennekom has seen the way Iowa has given up goals this season and said it is important for Indiana to be good on the ball in order to break down the Iowa defense.
“I think we have learned from that and know what we have to do with the ball to score on them,” van Bennekom said.
Chandra Davidson and Allison Jorden both agree the Big Ten is one of the most physical conferences in the country, and that’s exactly what they expect against Iowa. Davidson said physicality can result in any team winning any game in this conference.
“You walk off and your legs are falling off, your arms are falling off, everything is tired,” Jorden said. “But those are the games you love and the games you remember.”
Van Bennekom uses the Louisville game earlier in the season as an example of how the game will be played. He expects Iowa to play a physical game and give the Hoosiers another big test. While Iowa’s record might present them as a daunting opponent, Jorden said Indiana’s preparation will lead them to a competitive game.
“It is such a battle and everyone is so close and so full of talent,” Jorden said. “So it really is just going to depend on how we prepare for each game and treat every game as the most important game of the season because that’s what it is.”
Indiana’s Friday game will kick off at 3 p.m. On Sunday, the Hoosiers will play their second conference game against Nebraska at 1 p.m.. Both games can be seen on BTN+
“We are just going to have to be as switched on as possible," Jorden said. "We have to be ready for the physical battle that Iowa always puts up and just be ready to protect the home turf and fight for it.”