This was the season Indiana was supposed to redeem itself.
Seven returning starters? Check. A pair of top-ranked transfers? Yep. Top Drawer Soccer’s No. 1 recruiting class in the nation? Nothing new. Out for vengeance after an early exit in last season’s NCAA Tournament? You bet.
The pieces were all in place for coach Todd Yeagley to head one of his finest season’s in Bloomington yet.
But then COVID-19 struck, decimating everything in its path, including IU’s chance at redemption in the fall.
"As we have seen in the last five months, everything is fluid and on the table,” Yeagley said last week in a Zoom press conference. “That's the word of the year — fluid.”
Two weeks since Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren announced all fall sports would be postponed and re-evaluated in the spring, the Hoosiers aren’t sulking in their uncontrollable misfortunes. They have more important things to tend to.
For a program that’s been seeking its ninth National Championship — and ninth star on its crimson jersey — since 2012, dwelling on what could’ve been this fall isn’t an option.
"Everyone's mindset each year is that we are working towards December and a national championship," redshirt senior defender Spencer Glass said. ."This year, we have to flip a switch and work harder for a little longer, for May or whenever we can hopefully play for that title."
Though the goals haven’t changed for the title-minded Hoosiers, the means to achieve those goals must. From the obvious unknown whether a season will even take place, to the ever-changing vice-grip that coronavirus continues to hold on everyday life, fluidity is a necessity.
The way IU trains and practices while adhering to local and state guidelines will likely evolve week-to-week. Similarly, the utilization of new technologies like Zoom has gone from seldom-used to can’t-live-without in just a few short months.
It’s with this ability to adapt in the present, that will determine the Hoosiers’ fate when soccer returns in the future.
"They are motivated to win, motivated to put more trophies here for IU Soccer,” Yeagley said. “Many are motivated to play beyond Indiana. All of those things together allow us to move forward with a lot of focus.”
Glass, a team captain last season, is one of the many with aspirations to play beyond IU. But in his fifth and final season, what he does off the field this fall might be more important than anything he does on the field -- whenever that may be.
With a roster composed of 23 underclassmen and only nine upperclassmen, continued leadership from the likes of Glass and others becomes even more imperative as the Hoosiers chart a path forward.
This isn’t Glass’ first go-around as leader, though, and he’s made it a point to leave his fingerprint on each aspect of the team, season or not.
"Sometimes the disappointment creates opportunity"
In today's meeting with the media, @IndianaMSOC head coach Todd Yeagley praised his group for showing consistent maturity and poise over the past few months. #iums pic.twitter.com/OH1jGtlXx6
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) August 19, 2020
“The kind of message that the older guys were trying to send is we knew (Yeagley) and them were going to fight for us,” Glass said. “So whether (the season) was called two weeks ago or we were going to play one game and get called, we would be ready."
Just as the Hoosiers and other fall sports waited with bated breath in anticipation of the Big Ten’s postponement, they must do so again. But this time, it’ll be in anticipation of brighter days ahead.
Was this fall the season that would’ve unlocked IU’s vaunted ninth star? Who knows.
Despite the what-if and what-could’ve-been, Yeagley, Glass and the Hoosiers are still preparing. Still focused. Still fluid.
"It is the ultimate challenge to stay focused on what we know,” Yeagley said. Sometimes we know very little. All we know is that we can prepare."