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10/26/2022
Indiana forward Tommy Mihalic strikes the ball during Indiana's loss to Kentucky on Oct. 21. (HN photo/Daniel Rodriguez)
Indiana forward Tommy Mihalic strikes the ball during Indiana's loss to Kentucky on Oct. 21. (HN photo/Daniel Rodriguez)

Indiana scores against Evansville in opening minutes, halftime lead vanishes in 1-1 draw

The Hoosiers hope to get sharper before their upcoming match against Maryland

Forty-five seconds. That's how long it took for Indiana's fourth corner kick of the evening to mold into an Evansville goal on the other side of the field — the equalizer in a 1-1 draw Tuesday night. 

Indiana midfielder Patrick McDonald's kick was quite low, and the blockade of Purple Aces prevented the ball from traveling deeper into the 18-yard box. For a split second, Tommy Mihalic regained possession. But his heavy touch turned the ball back over. 

One Evansville player quickly sent the ball forward, yet Indiana defender Nyk Sessock seemingly booted the ball away from danger. Except Sessock's kick landed right to Evansville forward Nacho Diaz. 

Diaz took one touch to control the ball, then slung a far through-ball to his teammate, Nkosi Graham, who raced past Indiana's backline. The midfielder cleverly didn't touch the ball, and instead ran alongside it before breaking left, fooling Indiana goalkeeper JT Harms caught in no-man's land. 

Diaz's pass, starting before the midfield line, had traveled so far that Graham only made contact with the ball when finally entering the box. And following a soft shot, the ball landed in the back of goal — right beside Sessock and Ryan Wittenbrink grasping the net — who were barely late in clearing the ball. 

The pinball sequence sent the Evansville bench into a dogpile of bearhugs and slaps on the back — all within 45 seconds. This goal was only the equalizer, and yet, the celebration mimicked a walk-off overtime win in either a conference tournament or NCAA Tournament. 

But it's important to note: Indiana had won 18 consecutive matches over Evansville dating back to 1996, and before Tuesday night's match, dominated the all-time series 32-4-3. Sure, add a draw to that record, and it still lies heavily in Indiana's favor. But that result had to sting — especially after Indiana suffered its first shutout loss of the season this past weekend. 

"Next game," Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley stated postmatch when asked what his message to the locker room is. 

Mihalic quickly opened the match for the Hoosiers in just the second minute, curling a shot into the right side of the net for his team-leading sixth goal of the season. And by halftime, Indiana maintained its 1-0 lead, holding a close 5-4 shot advantage. 

Two of Evansville's shots on target were weakly struck, and reasonably easy for Harms to save. In the first 20 minutes of the match, Harms confidently greeted opponents to scoop up the ball in danger. But in the second half, perhaps that same courage resulted in Indiana's demise. 

"Until I see it, I wouldn't want to make a judgment on that," Yeagley said of the play. "We talked about being connected to our backline. On through-balls, they were very good at looking to get behind." 

Evansville finished the match with a narrow 10-9 shot advantage, yet a wider 6-3 gap in shots on target. Indiana's urgency generated three shots in the final 20 minutes compared to Evansville's zero in that same window. But none found the back of the net, nor did any of Indiana's six corner kicks — even one redirecting into an Evansville goal. The storyline of this past weekend's 3-0 loss to No. 2 Kentucky was failing to score on numerous set-piece chances such as corner kicks. 

And though Indiana first converted against Evansville, more was needed to win the match. That issue probably won't resurface against Trine this upcoming Thursday, a Division III school. But with first-place Maryland approaching on the horizon in a potential conference title-deciding match, it can't reemerge for Indiana's sake.


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