Youngsters roamed the field, running around under the lights, and kicking a few soccer balls.
Accompanying them were Indiana men's soccer alumni, who had just witnessed the team's 800th win in program history — a dominant 4-2 victory over Penn State Friday night.
In fact, Indiana had now become the quickest Division 1 school to reach the 800-win mark. That's quite fitting for a team that boasts 21 College Cup appearances, and eight national championships.
Now yes, Indiana could have hit that milestone last Sunday, but tied with Rutgers on the road. Acquiring a few extra points would have been beneficial with the conference title race nearing the finish line.
But hey, that left the door open for the Hoosiers to celebrate history on their home turf. And alumni who traveled far to witness this landmark luckily caught sight of an offensive frenzy.
"Some of them (alumni) came back tonight, but they were out of state, and they have young kids out on the field just now kicking around," Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said post match. "That's fun. [It's] really fun to see that. These are guys that came after I played... and they love see our program still doing well."
Friday night was the second time this season that Indiana scored four goals in one match, led by four unique goal scorers — Joey Maher, Brett Bebej, Ryan Wittenbrink and Herbert Endeley. Maher's goal came within five minutes from the starting whistle. And despite conceding 15 minutes after that, the Hoosiers kept pressing, and responded with an additional three goals. Indiana finished the contest maintaining a 17-7 shot advantage, nine of which were on target.
"I thought the defense played great," Yeagley said. "That's what's difficult. I told the guys, 'Hey, that's a good goal they scored.' Although we talked about that movement, that ball, that was pretty well defended. And sometimes you just have to go ‘good goal’, OK, let's move on, [and] not analyze and get paralyzed by giving up the goal."
After two consecutive draws in conference play, Indiana finally re-entered the win column. And the Hoosiers did so with their backs against the wall — Friday night could be deemed a must-win. Sure, Indiana now sits in second place in the standings behind Maryland. But multiple teams are hot on their heels, and have more matches to play, meaning more opportunities to gather points and climb the table.
There are some conference matches that Indiana could (and perhaps should) have won earlier this season. Take Michigan State and Rutgers as two examples. But now, Indiana has to win these conference matches, with the season coming down to the wire. And perhaps, playing with your back against the wall might not be the worst spot.
"Obviously, the math, I haven't looked at it, but I'm sure it's all jumbled up around right now... we got to get points in every game and let the table play out," Yeagley said. "But when you mathematically have a chance, it's obviously really fun for the group."
Think back to early September, and Indiana blanking No. 9 Akron 2-0 in the team's second consecutive shutout. That night, the program welcomed back, and honored, alumni from the 2012 championship team. To date, that was Indiana's most well-rounded performance of the season. And Friday night was one of Indiana's most dominating wins since then — also playing in front of alumni.
Following the Akron match, Indiana achieved a top-25 comeback win on the road over Butler. And look who's next after the team's win over Penn State: Wisconsin on the road this upcoming Tuesday night. Though not regarded as a top-25 team, this is another must-win match for Indiana. If the Hoosiers want a shot at hoisting the conference title, they must win their next two, and final, conference matches to gain an additional six points.
Achieving this milestone, and welcoming a morale boost, arrived at the most pivotal point in the season.
"It's special anytime you can be part of history here," Wittenbrink said. "Obviously, there's a deep history and culture that's really special. So anytime we can keep progressing that forward and keep it going, it's pretty cool for coach, the alumni, and the fans."