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<p>Indiana celebrates scoring a goal against Wright State on August 11. (HN photo/Giselle Marsteller)</p>
Indiana celebrates scoring a goal against Wright State on August 11. (HN photo/Giselle Marsteller)

Indiana defeats Bowling Green behind strong showings from McDonald and Mihalic

On a cool night in Westfield, Tommy Mihalic’s offense and Patrick McDonald’s passing provided warmth for the Hoosier faithful

In Indiana’s second of three exhibition games before next Thursday’s season opener in South Bend, the Hoosiers headed to Grand Park to face the Bowling Green State University Falcons. Indiana prevailed 3-1 in Tuesday night’s four-quarter, 100-minute contest, thanks in large part to junior forward Tommy Mihalic’s goal and two assists, all of which came in the first half.

Mihalic’s offensive production has been an Indiana staple – in 2022, his seven goals ranked second on the team behind MLS draftee Ryan Wittenbrink. In the 47th minute, Indiana broke the scoreless tie after junior midfielder Patrick McDonald fed the ball up the left wing for Mihalic, who dribbled past a defender and crossed to fellow junior forward Sam Sarver to finish the scoring play.

Mihalic did not start Tuesday night’s match – he entered the game in the second quarter. Head coach Todd Yeagley, who is entering his 14th season, said Mihalic’s role as either a starter or a bench player has yet to be defined. Entering Tuesday’s game, the coaching staff wanted to examine how sophomore forward Luka Bezerra handled the starting job.

“Some of Luka’s challenge has been starting with the intensity that we need,” Yeagley said after the game. “It was as much a challenge for Luka as it was an experiment with Tommy.”

After Mihalic put the Hoosiers on the board in the dying minutes of the first half, he converted on two more scoring opportunities in the next fifteen minutes of game time. McDonald played the ball ahead to Mihalic again in the 59th minute, and instead of dishing the ball across the keeper’s box, Mihalic kept it on his left foot.

He dashed up the far side and switched feet for the finish, finding the back post to double Indiana’s lead. Indiana’s final goal was scored just five minutes later when Mihalic took the ball off an unsuspecting Bowling Green midfielder, scampering up the left side as he had done many times before. With nimble freshman Collins Oduro dashing opposite Mihalic, the junior dished the ball across to Oduro.

Oduro quickly redirected towards the middle of the field and drove the ball inside the right goalpost to give Indiana its third goal of the night. Along with Mihalic’s constant offensive pressure, Oduro’s speed and agility stood out on Tuesday night. Despite his youth, Oduro has caught the eye of Yeagley.

Oduro, the 2022 Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year, has found a spot alongside Indiana’s returning core. “Collins is that one new piece,” Yeagley said. “He’s going to be able to draw attention and get other guys goals. His athleticism is special.”

Yeagley sang Oduro’s praises further, placing him among the top freshmen he has coached during his storied career. “He’s been a home run for us. He’s going to be a big part of our attack this year, whether we use him inside or wide. (Oduro) is pretty far along -- in terms of freshmen I’ve gotten to coach, he’s in that top tier,” Yeagley said. “Going back ten or fifteen years, he’s in that top category.”

In an Indiana attack that boasts a laundry list of talent, Oduro is one player who has a clear spot in the starting 11. McDonald, a crucial catalyst of the Hoosiers’ offense on Tuesday, has also impressed.

“I thought (Patrick) had a really good game,” Yeagley said. “His range is amazing. Two (of his) passes were fantastic.”

Yeagley has clear expectations for McDonald as he enters his second season as an everyday starter: “We need him to get some assists and goals. That was the challenge for him (in the past), and if he does that, he can be one of the top midfielders in the country.”

Some roles that are less clearly defined are those on the defensive side. Yeagley said that freshmen Alex Barger and Joel Demian are in the running for left back, with Demian working back from an offseason injury.

Seniors Hugo Bacharach, Jansen Miller and Joey Maher are vying for the two center back positions, and the two center midfield positions are also up for grabs. McDonald and sophomore Jack Wagoner are the frontrunners as returning players, but freshmen Logan Olliver and Justin Sheffler also saw minutes in the midfield on Tuesday night.

Because of Indiana’s strong veteran core led by Mihalic and Sarver, the perimeter positions will be difficult to break into. “It’s going to be harder to crack in, as a new player, outside of (Oduro)” Yeagley said.

As Yeagley and the rest of the coaching staff have just over a week to set the lineup for opening day, Indiana hosts the University of Louisville on Friday night to close its preseason slate. The match kicks off at 8 p.m. at Bill Armstrong Stadium and admission is free.

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