Indiana women’s soccer was merely a half away from history. With 45 minutes of scoreless play, the Hoosiers would have set the program record for the longest consecutive streak without conceding a goal.
Then, in the 66th minute, when a cross from Minnesota junior forward Christina Van Loon entered the Hoosiers’ 18-yard box, graduate student defender Gabbie Cesarone leaped in the air to place a bullet header in the back of the net. Sophomore goalkeeper Jamie Gerstenberg was irate, and began barking at her backline for leaving Cesarone free, and in turn allowing the first goal of the season.
What followed was an offensive onslaught from the Golden Gophers, who scored twice more in less than 10 minutes. The Hoosiers underwent their first true test of adversity on a brisk Thursday night in Minneapolis, suffering a demoralizing 3-0 defeat to Minnesota.
Here are a couple takeaways following the Hoosiers’ first loss of the season:
Past defensive performances were unsustainable
Indiana tallied six scoreless draws in the first eight matches of the season. Topping both the Big Ten and the entire NCAA in goals against average, the Hoosiers appeared primed for a historic defensive season.
However, the backline was on their heels far too often, especially late in games. While they went a month without allowing a goal, an opposing team breaking through felt imminent.
On Thursday night, the goals came in spades. Minnesota’s attack was brewing for a large portion of the match, and when they finally found the back of the net, the Hoosiers appeared to entirely fall apart.
With another pair of goals within a minute of each other, the Hoosiers could just put their hands on their heads and walk sullenly back to their positions. While Indiana had a bit of luck on its side throughout the first month of the season, it appeared absolutely nothing could go the Hoosiers' way against Minnesota.
In the 77th minute, junior forward Christa VanLoon ripped a shot from the top of the box that deflected off the post. The ball then struck Gerstenberg’s back and trickled across the goal line.
The attack needs some kind of spark
This should be more than obvious by now. With just two total shots, the Hoosiers' attack was essentially lifeless on Thursday night.
While IU played decently in buildup and had a few nifty combinations in the first half, Minnesota senior goalkeeper Megan Plaschko was on her feet in the entire second period and did not have to register a single save.
The attacking struggles were epitomized late in the first half. The Hoosiers lost the ball in the attacking third and head coach Erwin van Bennekom was visibly fuming on the sidelines, seemingly exasperated with another missed opportunity.
As has been the case all season, Indiana struggled both connecting passes into the final third and taking chances when they were available. All too often, attackers were taking one too many touches or trying to thread a final pass as opposed to taking a strike towards goal.
On Sunday, the Hoosiers will travel to Madison to take on Wisconsin at 2 p.m. They will look to get some very important points and much-needed momentum before beginning a two-match homestand.