In the 54th minute of Indiana’s match against Ball State, freshman midfielder Izzy Smith fired a long-range shot that looked destined for the top left corner. The Hoosier faithful, whose raucous cheering grew incessant amid the offensive stagnancy, swiveled their heads toward the goal and patiently waited.
Ball State sophomore goalkeeper Bethany Moser dove to her right, and with outstretched fingertips, managed to clip just enough of the ball to keep the game knotted up. Hands began to cover heads in disbelief, and collective groans and sighs ensued.
For the third straight game, Indiana’s match ended in a scoreless tie Thursday night in Bloomington. Despite stellar play from sophomore goalkeeper Jamie Gerstenberg and the Hoosiers’ backline, it is fair to question what is wrong with the offense at the moment.
Indiana needs to generate better chances
While the Hoosiers did shoot the ball more in Thursday’s match against Ball State than they did in the first two matches combined, head coach Erwin van Bennekom touched on the shot selection as needing to improve.
“We had a couple of shots late that might show up on there, but we just didn’t create enough quality opportunities,” van Bennekom said after the match. “We’re definitely going to work on that.”
With the midfield play being a little sloppy at times, even the quality looks the Hoosiers had were extremely difficult to come by. While the team has had success in its previous matches by ferociously pressing the opposing backlines, van Bennekom was frequently barking at the forwards to add urgency.
Getting better chances starts far from the net
The stagnancy in the attacking third was clear on Thursday. However, execution in and around the 18-yard box is not the sole reason for the team’s scoreless drought.
According to van Bennekom, more is needed from the squad in buildup play to get the team around the net in the first place.
“We’ve got to be sharper in front of goal, but we also have to get the ball there more,” van Bennekom said. “In buildup and playing forward we’re just not sharp enough, and it’s not just the scoring part, it’s everything leading up to that.”
There are reasons for optimism going forward
With a tough initial road schedule, the Hoosiers could be in a much worse spot than earning points in each of their first three matches. Additionally, while the offensive struggles are noteworthy, it cannot be understated how rock-solid Gerstenberg and the defense have been thus far.
The Hoosiers will host Indiana State on Thursday, Sept. 1. With a week-long rest, the squad will have ample time to evaluate its attacking play and come out with a win before a tough Notre Dame team makes their way to Bloomington.