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'The atmosphere here was insane': In front of fans again, IU women's soccer dominates season opener

With students coming back on campus and fans being allowed in the stands, the Hoosier women’s soccer team had a little more energy in Thursday’s season opener against the Valparaiso Beacons. 

Indiana defeated Valpo 1-0, but dominated the game on both sides of the ball statistically. It was especially a strong offensive performance, as Indiana had 10 more shots on goal than the Beacons along with 18 corner kicks. For IU, earning a victory is all that matters in the end.

“I think just winning the game was the first objective,” head coach Erwin van Bennekom said. “But I think we could’ve made the game a little easier for ourselves. If you just look at the scoreboard we had 18 corners, so today we just struggled with capitalizing on corners.”

The Indiana Hoosiers Women's soccer team is pictured during the game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Indiana Hoosiers in March 2021 at Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington. Photo By Missy Minear/Indiana Athletics

That dominance began right from the get go, as the Hoosiers were getting shots on the goal immediately. Sophomore Anna Bennett and graduate student Melanie Forbes were making Valparaiso’s defense work in the opening moments of the game, firing off two quick shots in the first five minutes. The Hoosiers were able to get more opportunities as the game progressed, but unfortunately no shots fell through.

Valparaiso goalie Nikki Coryell was huge in slowing down the Indiana offense as the first half progressed. With a couple of diving saves and big goal kicks, it was harder for the Hoosiers to go back down the field and get shots on goal. IU still controlled the ball most of the half, but didn’t get as many shots on goal due to some adjustments made by Valpo. 

IU freshman Jaime Gerstenberg didn’t get tested very much, thanks to some great play from the offense. However, when the defense was tested, the Hoosiers were able to move the ball around well and get the ball on the other side of the field to create scoring opportunities. The two teams went into the half all tied at zero, as Indiana hoped to capitalize on some missed opportunities it had earlier.

The IU offense picked up right where it left off in the first half, getting many shots on goal and started to wear out the Valpo defense. The Hoosiers had six more shots on goal and 10 more corner kicks than Valparaiso in the first half, and that number only got bigger as time went on. Bennett had some nice passes on corner kicks, but Indiana just couldn’t capitalize.

After 12 shots on goal compared to the two shots from the Beacons, IU put the first point on the board 65 minutes into the game. Freshman forward Jordyn Levy took the ball away from a couple of Beacon defenders and gave the Hoosiers the lead. It felt that it was only a matter of time before Indiana scored, knowing that Indiana had statistically dominated the game on the offensive end.

“It was crazy,” Levy said. “The atmosphere here was insane. The minute Camille (Hamm) passed the ball over the defender was crazy but I knew that I was going to be on the ball and finishing it was a great feeling.”

IU kept the ball on Valparaiso’s side of the field to close out the game, thanks to some very solid play from the offense, midfield and defense. Even when Valpo seemed to make a little bit of a push towards the end, the Hoosiers held their ground and kept the ball away from Gerstenberg. This helped Indiana prevail to a 1-0 victory over a solid Beacon team and start the season off just like van Bennekom wanted.

This win puts IU at 1-0 on the season, and will continue its nonconference slate in the coming days. The Hoosiers will face another in-state opponent in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish this Sunday. For Van Bennekom, there are still areas that need improvement.

“There are still a lot of things we can do better,” van Bennekom said. “I think the way we defended, we got exposed a little bit in the first half in counter attacks. We were a little too far away and didn’t apply pressure on the ball quick enough. So definitely a lot of little things, and we have to be ready.”

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