The ball was trickling merely a few yards in front of the goal, seemingly begging to be fired into the nylon net.
Virginia Tech junior forward Tori Powell cruised her way down the edge of the 18-yard box and crossed a perfectly weighted pass to an uncovered teammate in junior Natalie Mitchell. With around 20 minutes left in regulation, for a brief moment, the Hoosiers appeared to be staring down the barrel of defeat.
But, as has occurred time and time again in her illustrious and young career, sophomore goalkeeper Jamie Gerstenberg performed heroics that drew sighs of relief from supporters, and the ire of the opposition. After tracking the pass and positioning herself, Gerstenberg went to the ground in an instant to deny the shot with a brilliant kick save.
Gerstenberg set a career-high in saves in Sunday’s match with eight, and she moved into sixth in school history with 11 clean sheets. The Hokies peppered Gerstenberg the entire match, totaling 19 shots with eight on goal, but she managed to fend them all off en route to the Hoosiers’ second scoreless draw of the season.
While earning two draws on the road against solid competition is certainly nothing to scoff at, the dichotomy between the offensive and defensive production continues to grow. Despite playing with loads of energy and ferocity, the Hoosiers’ possessions often fizzled out in the opposing third, and they managed to test the Hokies’ goalkeeper with just two shots on net.
Sunday’s match marked the Hoosiers’ sixth straight game without a goal, and they have not found the back of the net since Oct. 8, 2021, against Northwestern. Although the exceptionally young team makes up for its inexperience with confidence, the offense seems to lack structure at times, instead relying on quick counters or mistakes from opposing defenders.
However, that is not to say that the Hoosiers generated no quality looks. Head coach Erwin van Bennekom tweaked the lineup from the first match against West Virginia and opted for a 3-5-2 formation on Sunday.
The added numbers on the offensive side of the ball were beneficial at times, as the Hoosiers’ marauding forwards continually pressed the Hokies’ backline to force errant passes. Additionally, the midfield more than held its own as sophomore Sydney Masur and senior Alaina Kalin each played the entire match, providing defensive help and a comfortable presence on the ball.
Having only three in the back can be demanding for the wingback position, especially for a young player. Yet, freshman defender Arianna Rose looked poised and confident with the ball, playing 84 minutes and tallying both of the Hoosiers’ shots on goal while providing stout one-on-one defense.
Perhaps the Hoosiers’ best chance of the match came off of an excellent lofted cross from Rose to senior forward Paige Webber. Webber’s first touch split the two centrebacks, placing her alone in front of the goalkeeper, but her next touch was just a little too strong to put a shot on goal.
The Hoosiers return home to Bill Armstrong Stadium on Thursday for an intrastate match against Ball State at 8 p.m. The match will begin a three-game homestand, and provide an opportunity for much-needed goals and momentum.