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Joey Maher plays against DePaul in Indiana's exhibition win on Aug. 12, 2022. (HN photo/Max Wood)
Joey Maher plays against DePaul in Indiana's exhibition win on Aug. 12, 2022. (HN photo/Max Wood)

‘The locker room needed that’: Indiana finally pushes a goal across, defense holds firm in 1-0 victory over St. John’s

Indiana earned its first win of the season

Quinten Helmer's strike bolted toward the goal, only to be quickly deflected by one of St. John's defenders. The decent-sized Indiana crowd wouldn't be wrong to groan. That was the Hoosiers' fourth blocked shot of the match in 50 minutes. Yet even if the fans wanted to lament, they couldn't. 

Within seconds, the backspin of the ball from the deflected shot immediately curled its way in the 18-yard box toward Tommy Mihalic, who scored a daring airborne scissor kick into the right-side corner of the net, past the diving St. John's goalkeeper. 

"No, I haven't even tried doing that," Mihalic said postgame when asked if he ever scored a goal in that fashion. "To be honest. I just kind of went up, did something, and it connected well." 

As Mihalic sprinted toward the corner flag, tongue and arms out, before sliding and being mobbed by his teammates, Indiana could let out a breath of relief. In the Hoosiers' prior 3-3 draw against Portland Tuesday, Aug. 30, none of their 15 second-half shots found the back of the net. And before Mihalic's goal against St. John's, Indiana missed an additional six shots. That's 21 shots across 95 minutes in consecutive matches that missed the mark. Finally, they got one — ultimately the decisive goal in the Hoosiers' 1-0 victory Tuesday night — their first win of the season. 

“We have some guys that can score beautiful goals, but they may need more chances to convert," Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said postgame. "But I think we have the pieces that can convert." 

In the first half, the Hoosiers' crisp passes created numerous chances, both in the center of the pitch and out-wide. Yeagley admitted in the preseason that his team wasn't creating tons of opportunities. Still, against St. John's, the 3-4-3 formation lent itself to dominating possession on the opposing team's side of the pitch. Samuel Sarver had a good look in the box five minutes in. Mihalic's fancy footwork blew past two defenders and drew a close free kick 15 minutes later. And a deadly counterattack 15 minutes after that saw Maouloune Goumballe dashing down the sideline, though his cross was blocked. Eventually, it seemed only a matter of time before one of Indiana's chances trickled past the goal line. 

But St. John's didn't quietly exit Bill Armstrong Stadium. Directly after the Hoosiers' thunderous celebration and sighs of relief, they quickly held their breath. The Red Storm went on the attack, and outshot Indiana 9-4 in the second half — and 11-9 in total. 

"They were finding some open gaps, and they were fighting second balls fairly easily," Yeagley said. "Our backline was a little fatigued tonight. We haven't rested them." 

Though Yeagley stated the backline was weary, Joey Maher, Daniel Munie and Nyk Sessock each delivered vital tackles — sometimes one-on-one — to prevent St. John's from scoring throughout the match. Starting goalkeeper Bryant Pratt had perhaps the best defensive moment of the night by stopping a point-blank shot right before injuring his arm and exiting the match. 

When JT Harms — who started in the season-opener at No. 1 Clemson — took his place he withstood three shots to maintain Indiana's lead. After the Hoosiers conceded six goals combined in their first two matches, delivering a shutout in their first win was the cherry on top — necessary in the eyes of Yeagley. 

"The locker room needed that," Yeagley said. "Because they've been close. The Portland game felt like a loss. And it wasn't, but it felt like it. We had a tough setback on the road — played pretty well against Clemson. So we needed to feel a good win and a shutout."

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