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Paige Webber's hat trick powers Hoosiers to third straight win

A hat trick for junior Paige Webber propelled IU women's soccer to a 4-0 victory over a very quality Murray State team Thursday. These were Webber’s first three goals of the season, and they could not have come at a better time for the team. There was no one key to getting this hat trick for Webber, she said.

“I just wanted to go in and run everywhere,” Webber said. “It worked out for the best, because I scored three goals. It was really just to keep going.”

The two teams went back and forth to start off the game. Murray State’s defensive pressure really bothered the Indiana backline, and the Racers got some good looks on the net. While it took a minute to figure out, van Bennekom eventually crafted a way to break it and eventually got Murray State to back up defensively.

Indiana had its fair share of opportunities on goal as well. Anna Bennett and Jordyn Levy were relentless in taking the ball from the Racers and trying to get the offense going. The Hoosiers had some good corner kick looks as well, but the stifling Murray State defense broke those shots up.

While things weren't going too much in IU’s favor, the best possible scenario came into reality. Olivia Wos sent a pass from a long ways away, and Levy scored to give Indiana the 1-0 lead almost 30 minutes into the game. That is now Levy’s fourth goal of the season, and she could not have asked for a better start to her freshman campaign. 

From that point on, Indiana had full control of the first half. Bennett, Levy and Avery Lockwood did a great job of applying pressure on the Racer backline. The Hoosiers had done exactly what Murray State was doing to start things off in the half in applying pressure, and it paid off. Webber put one in over Murray State goalie Jenna Villacres to extend the lead to 2-0.

The Hoosiers went into the locker room with all the confidence in the world offensively.

“I think scoring before halftime is key,” van Bennekom. “Everyone says 2-0 is the most dangerous lead, but I like 2-0 much better than 1-0. I just think scoring before halftime takes a little steam off of them, so a huge goal [before the half].”

Indiana started out hot in the second half, just like the team needed to. The offense did a great job of keeping the ball from the Racer defenders and creating some phenomenal opportunities. The ball movement was also very good, as the Murray State defense was moving all over the place in order to keep up with the quick Hoosier forwards.

That ball movement would eventually pay off, as Webber put in a wild goal that barely trickled across the goal line to give Indiana a very comfortable 3-0 lead.

This Hoosier team has shown the ability to score in diverse ways these past few games, as Webber’s threat on offense takes some heat off of some of the other Indiana scorers.

As soon as everyone thought that the game would slow down, it picked back up. Webber put in her third goal of the game to give IU a dominant 4-0 lead. With 10 goals in two games, it seems as though the Hoosiers may be catching fire at the right time, as conference play will be here before you know it. 

Even with van Bennekom making substitutions, Indiana did not miss a beat. The team was still getting shots on goal and playing very sound defensively. A team with this caliber of depth is exactly what van Bennekom has been preaching about, as it takes a lot of pressure and fatigue off of the starters. As triple zeroes showed on the scoreboard, the Hoosiers walked away with their second straight shutout and a 4-0 victory against a solid Murray State team. 

This win puts Indiana at 5-1-1 on the season, with the last nonconference game coming up on Sunday. That game will be on the road in Manhattan, Kansas, where IU will take on the Wildcats of Kansas State. The Wildcats will be no pushover, as they are 3-2 and are coming off two straight wins. It will be a battle of the win streaks in Manhattan, so the Hoosiers will need to finish nonconference play strong to get some confidence going into Big Ten play.

“I think we’re getting to that point where we are understanding each other,” van Bennekom said. “I think mutual understanding is one of the most important things in between teammates. And I think we create maybe less shots but better opportunities as well.”

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