Paddy Burns’ volley was smashed toward the frame of goal, only to be denied by the right post. The Irish bench was filled with hands on heads in disbelief as they came so close to scoring a goal in the 10th minute.
Flashback three days ago to Ann Arbor. 101 seconds after Indiana’s Tommy Mihalic scored to even the score at one, Michigan jumped right back out in front courtesy of a Cameron Martin header. How it went in, you may ask: Off the inside of Indiana’s left post.
“It all comes around,” head coach Todd Yeagley said after Indiana’s 1-0 victory over Notre Dame. “We’ve not necessarily gotten some great breaks this year. We were fortunate tonight.”
It was a game of almost at Bill Armstrong Stadium, as Notre Dame hit the post twice and had a goal chalked off as the attacking player was offside.
That specific offsides call in the 71st minute was just one of — Ed Rooney voice — nine times that the assistant referees had their orange and yellow checkered flags raised in the air against the visitors.
Indiana has seen its fair share of bad breaks this season, and, looking more at the big picture, the last three seasons, when the Hoosiers were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament via golden goal, including the 2020-21 National Championship, when Marshall tore out Indiana’s hearts with a 1-0 victory in extra time. That goal: A scramble in front, leading to the ball kissing the inside of the post and crossing the line.
One of the players on that team, Ryan Wittenbrink, was the one who scored Indiana’s lone goal of the match. After reigning BIG Offensive Player of the Week Herbert Endeley was taken down just a few inches inside the box, Wittenbrink made no mistake, sending Bryan Dowd the wrong way and Indiana in front of the 25th minute.
It was Wittenbrink’s team-high fifth goal on the season and tied his career high for goals in a campaign. The other season that Wittenbrink scored five goals: 2020-21. Endeley's aggressive play helped lead to the goal.
“He’s a baller,” Wittenbrink said of Endeley after the match. Yeagley also said that even though Endeley wasn’t “super involved,” he showed that he has “those moments” in him.
Indiana has struggled holding onto halftime leads and seeing the match out, and despite how close Notre Dame got to equalizing, Yeagley was pleased with the mental fortitude of the team given the slow, more methodical second half.
“This was a good game to win in this way because we haven’t had this type of game,” Yeagley said.
At the half, the challenge that lied ahead of Yeagley was to “pick and choose” which moments to press forward and try to score the elusive second goal vs sit back and hold onto the clean sheet, he said. The game was slower than he anticipated, but that allowed his team to chew time off the clock and see out the 1-0 victory. A big reason for the clean sheet was the insertion of reigning BIG Defender of the Year Daniel Munie into the starting lineup.
Munie’s vocal and physical presence in the entire 90 minutes was a big reason Indiana was able to hold on.
“He’s the best defender in the country,” Wittenbrink said of his captain. “He’s so good that it definitely helps us be confident (at the back).”
Munie wasn’t the only change in the starting XI. Sam Sarver and Mihalic were paired with one another up front for the first time since the Big Ten opener against Ohio State on Sept. 18. Plus, Bryant Pratt took over the goalkeeping duties, leaving JT Harms on the bench.
“Tommy and Sammy are both really capable partners together up there,” Yeagley said.
Although none of the four forwards “were outstanding” Wednesday, Yeagley said, the relationship that the two sophomores in Mihalic and Sarver have allowed them to start together. Similar to the goalkeeping situation, Yeagley is keeping his options open for now, but said he wants to “hone in” on his everyday starting squad soon, considering Wednesday was match No. 10 of 17 in the regular season.
If Indiana can find the lineup it likes and get into the groove it got into last season, when IU won seven in a row, this team is scary. The mantra of this team in the run to the College Cup two seasons ago was gritty wins like this, where the team’s backbone was the back line. Let’s not forget, that big winning streak began with a 1-0 win at home against a non-conference opponent in the first week of October…
Indiana’s next match is Sunday at Rutgers. Kickoff is at noon from Yurcak Field in Piscataway, New Jersey.