You don't often see Indiana veteran defender Daniel Munie sitting on the bench. Spanning from the 2019-2021 seasons, Munie started 52 consecutive matches for the cream and crimson. Yes, 52.
Munie helped lead Indiana's backline to 13 shutouts last season, including seven straight in October, representing the second-longest single-season streak in program history. And for his efforts, Munie earned 2021 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors.
This year, the redshirt senior returned to defend that title. Yet only four matches into the 2022 season, which saw the aforementioned streak jump to 56 matches, Munie exited, gently holding his hamstring area. In the weeks following, Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley confirmed the hamstring injury.
During the four matches in which Munie was sidelined, Indiana went 2-1-1, while allowing five goals. Finally, on Sunday, Munie made his long-anticipated return after roughly a month of sitting on the bench, during Indiana's 2-2 draw against Michigan.
Munie didn't start, and entered the match in the 58th minute, with Indiana down 1-0 to the Wolverines. Yet, less than 10 minutes later, Indiana found the equalizer, courtesy of Tommy Mihalic's powerful strike tucked just inside the right goalpost.
Perhaps Mihalic wanted to make up for an earlier play, where he barely overran a pass in the box with no Michigan defenders covering him. Or, Munie's entrance sparked Indiana's offense — which had been knocking on the door, yet couldn't strike the ball into the net. Maybe, it was a result of both.
"We've said that when we move [Ryan] Wittenbrink more into starting right now than coming off the bench, you need players that can come in and consistently bring something that the group gets excited about," Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said postmatch. "Munie had been waiting to get back. They all know he's a difference maker for us. And so yeah, the group definitely was excited to see that, as he was."
Michigan surely wasn't disheartened, though. Less than two minutes following Mihalic's goal, the Wolverines answered with a score from Cameron Martin. Where did the header go? Tucked just inside the right goalpost.
Back and forth, the match continued to go. With fewer than 10 minutes remaining, Indiana forward Karsen Henderlong sent a cross in the box, which banked off a Michigan defender for the own-goal equalizer. The online stat sheet soon credited Munie with the goal. It appeared as an own goal on replay, yet regardless, Munie stood right next to the Michigan defender, and applied pressure in the box. It could've gone either way.
Indiana had earned a pair of come-from-behind victories in the past, but never a come-from-behind draw. Prior to Sunday, Indiana's two draws occurred after it scored first, as seen in the Portland and Michigan State matches. Yeagley said the Michigan State match felt like a loss, due to Indiana's high-shot output without converting. Yet on Sunday, Indiana was outmatched 3-2 in shots on goal.
Did the Michigan match therefore feel like a win? Well, for Yeagley, it was somewhat of a mixed feeling.
"As poorly as we played in that first 30 [minutes], to come away with a result I think is a positive," Yeagley said. "But yet when we had as much of [the ball] in the second half, I'm sure I'll look back at the video and go, man, we had enough of territory to create a few more quality chances... It's definitely a different feeling than losing the lead, similar to Michigan State or Portland."
One more positive thrown in the mix: Munie's return. Yeagley said barring any setbacks, Munie should be ready to start the team's next match. Though, it's uncertain what position he'll play. Against Michigan, Munie played rightback, not his traditional center-back role.
"You noticed him on the right-hand side — just because I felt like he's gonna be a little anxious," Yeagley said.
That decision ultimately worked out for the Hoosiers.
"We talked about using him as a right wing-back getting forward,” Yeagley said. “He also can get in the box on the weak side and help us in the air offensively — and he obviously helped us with the goals."
The Hoosiers now have five points in conference play, tied for second place with Penn State. Two of the three first-place place teams, Maryland and Rutgers, face off Tuesday.
The best-case scenario for Indiana would be for the two east-coast schools to tie, as they would have eight points apiece. That doesn't consider Michigan State, which also sits in first place, with seven points.
But still, if the Hoosiers win their next match conference match over Rutgers, they'd likely be in the hunt for first place with three more conference matches remaining after that. Not a bad time for Munie to return.