Indiana had a rough account last week in matches against Butler and Sacramento State.
However, the No. 8 Hoosiers shook off some early struggles and benefited from some Northwestern mistakes to make it two wins in two tries in conference play with a 3-1 victory over the Wildcats on Tuesday night.
Celentano holds strong
After last Friday’s 1-0 victory over Sacramento State, Yeagley mentioned the fact that IU was still evaluating fifth-year senior goalie Sean Caulfield’s role. Besides the six-save performance against Sacramento State, a career high, Caulfield had struggled mightily on the season.
Yeagley gave true freshman goalkeeper Roman Celentano, a Naperville, Illinois native, his first career start against Northwestern on Tuesday night. Celentano faced nine shots on the night and made two saves in the 3-1 victory. The only goal allowed was an absolute rocket from Northwestern freshman Ugo Archua from just outside the 18-yard box, a shot Celetano really had no chance at.
It’s unclear if Celentano will be the first choice keeper going forward, but his performance gave Yeagley confidence in a second player’s ability to man goal. He faced a lot of pressure in the first 45 minutes and communicated well with the backline. If anything, it means Yeagley can afford to use a two-man rotation between the sticks.
What it also means is that Yeagley might’ve found the goalkeeper of the future for IU on Tuesday night.
Youth plays a valuable role (again)
There’s no secret that IU coach Todd Yeagley loves to utilize his talented freshmen in his Starting XI. On Tuesday night, he started five true freshmen and one redshirt freshman against Northwestern. Each of the three goals came from freshmen. Forwards Maouloune Goumballe and Josh Penn were rewarded goals after Northwestern knocked two own-goals into the back of the net.
Midfielder Aidan Morris earned the first true goal of the night after knocking in a shot in the 66th minute off a feed from Goumballe. Freshman forward Victor Bezerra had a number of strikes at Northwestern goalkeeper Miha Miskovic that nearly found the back of the net and Penn and freshman forward Herbert Endeley played tremendous throughout the night.
A performance of this kind from the freshmen attackers is nothing new but continues to emphasize the idea that the IU success will run through the young players on the team. With junior forward Ian Black sitting again due to injury, the frontline continues to be comprised entirely of freshmen and they continue to contribute.
The freshmen will undoubtedly go through struggles as the season progresses, but for now the success of this team lives and dies by the play of guys such as Penn, Endeley, Morris and Bezerra.
Is the Big Ten Indiana's for the taking?
Indiana is the only team in the conference that has yet to drop points through at least two games. After 3-1 victories over Wisconsin and Northwestern, IU is just a point back from Penn State with a game in hand. The two will play on Sunday in Happy Valley.
The usual juggernauts of the Big Ten have struggled out of the gate. Maryland, who is the defending NCAA champion and began the season No. 1, has stumbled out of the rankings and fell to Northwestern at home in its conference opener. Michigan State has just one win to its name on the entire season.
Indiana has been far from crisp to begin the season, but it’s still a top-10 team that’s undefeated to begin the conference slate. We will know more about IU in the next two weeks with matches against Penn State, Michigan and Maryland.
But for now, it appears that IU is the team to beat in the Big Ten.
Indiana will now travel to play Penn State in a matchup of the two best teams in the conference right now. The Nittany Lions looked sharp Tuesday night in an away victory over Michigan State. IU is 6-1-2 on the season heading into Sunday’s match in Happy Valley.