When No. 2 Indiana opens its 51st season on Thursday at Notre Dame, the Hoosiers will be 255 days removed from a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Syracuse in the 2022 NCAA College Cup final. Things have changed considerably since then, so it’s time to take a look at how the 2023 season shapes up:
This season, Indiana is scheduled to play 17 matches, 10 of which will take place at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Its home opener is Tuesday, Aug. 29 versus DePaul. Notable non-conference matchups include a home tilt versus No. 6 Washington on Sept. 1 and a visit to No. 3 Kentucky on Oct. 3.
Historically, Indiana has played a somewhat daunting non-conference schedule. Based upon recent seasons, this scheduling decision is made in preparation for Big Ten play and the NCAA tournament.
The Hoosiers open Big Ten play on Sept. 15 versus Wisconsin, and this year’s conference slate also includes contests against Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State and Northwestern.
Perhaps the most notable Big Ten matchup occurs when Indiana visits No. 14 Maryland on Oct. 20. Indiana was picked to finish second in the preseason Big Ten poll, with the Terrapins projected to take the top spot.
Last season, Indiana and Maryland squared off twice in a pair of high-stakes matches. They played to a 1-1 tie in the regular season finale on Oct. 30 in Bloomington. Indiana led 1-0 until the dying stages, when Maryland scored with less than 10 minutes remaining to snatch a share of the Big Ten regular season title away from the Hoosiers.
Indiana defeated Maryland 2-1 on Nov. 9 in a tightly-contested Big Ten semifinal. Maryland entered the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed after winning the Big Ten outright, and Indiana’s victory came on Maryland’s home field in College Park.
Standouts, new and old
Juniors Patrick McDonald, Sam Sarver and freshman Collins Oduro were named Big Ten Players to Watch on Aug. 21, with Oduro being named to the Top Drawer Soccer Preseason Best XI Freshman Team.
Senior Fairleigh Dickinson transfer Hugo Bacharach was named to the TDS Preseason Best XI Second Team. Bacharach also appears at No. 22 on the Top Drawer Soccer Preseason Top 100.
Bacharach comes to Indiana after three first-team All-Northeast Conference seasons at Fairleigh Dickinson, being named NEC Defensive Player of the Year in his final season with the Knights.
Oduro was named the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year during his senior season at The Phelps School in Philadelphia. The Bibiani, Ghana native tallied 39 goals in his final high school season.
Bacharach and Oduro both impressed during Indiana’s preseason exhibitions versus Wright State, Bowling Green and Louisville. Alongside Sarver, junior Tommy Mihalic also stood out, generating an avalanche of offensive opportunities.
JT Harms posted four consecutive shutouts in the 2022 NCAA Tournament to cement his place as Indiana’s starting goalkeeper, and he retains that role to begin the 2023 season. Lanky freshman Alex Kara is a formidable backup should the even-keeled Harms run into trouble at any point.
Harms and Kara split preseason reps, with neither experiencing much in the way of save opportunities. Indiana’s defensive core, led by Bacharach and fellow senior Joey Maher, largely kept shots from going on goal.
The Hoosiers’ 4-4-2 formation allows for players such as Mihalic, Sarver and Bacharach to have considerable impacts on both offense and defense. Despite being a member of the back line, Bacharach has shown to be a considerable threat on restarts, with head coach Todd Yeagley noting that the 6-foot-4 defender will be an asset on set pieces.
Next man up
Although Indiana retains key pieces from last year’s NCAA runner-up squad, there are some large holes to fill as well. Indiana must replace four starters, most notably 2022’s leading goal-scorer Ryan Wittenbrink and two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Daniel Munie.
Wittenbrink was the only player on last year’s squad to tally double-digit goals, finding the back of the net 10 times. He was Indiana’s best player, after a breakout year that some may say came out of nowhere. It remains to be seen who will take on the role of offensive leader this year. In addition to his well-documented defensive prowess, Munie was a key part of Indiana’s offense in the final third, and Bacharach shows flashes of that same style of play.
A formidable, versatile defender in Nyk Sessock is also gone — he was an everyday starter who picked up seven assists from the fullback position. Another key contributor to last year’s success was Herbert Endeley. The forward was a constant presence on the Indiana attack, whose blazing speed and flair for the incredible were rivaled by very few.
Indiana’s season begins on Thursday in South Bend. There, the Hoosiers face a long-time rival: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Kick-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.