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<p>Tommy Mihalic crosses in a ball during an exhibition versus Louisville on August 18. (HN photo/Kal Graybill)</p>
Tommy Mihalic crosses in a ball during an exhibition versus Louisville on August 18. (HN photo/Kal Graybill)

Indiana finishes off perfect preseason with 1-0 win over Louisville, looks ahead to season opener

Tommy Mihilic shines again in hard-fought, physical match, with Hugo Bacharach also making an impact

Indiana men’s soccer closed its three-game fall exhibition slate in a scrappy, low-scoring match versus Louisville on Friday night at Bill Armstrong Stadium. The Hoosiers defeated Louisville 1-0, Bowling Green State 3-1 and Wright State 1-0 in three games of preseason action. 

On Friday, Tommy Mihalic looked firmly in midseason form, with the junior forward’s crafty dribbling allowing him to snake through the Cardinals’ defense and secure the lone goal of the match in the 50th minute. 

Indiana and Louisville combined for 32 fouls, with Louisville firmly out-fouling Indiana 22-10 in addition to the visiting squad picking up a pair of yellow cards in the first half. The Hoosiers-Cardinals preseason fixture has seen repeat appearances on the calendar, and Mihalic noted how the matches often feel like more is at stake than a normal exhibition. 

“It replicated a regular-season game,” Mihalic said after Friday’s match. “They’re physical – they’re a good team. We stood up (to) that and performed well.” 

Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said postgame that the game’s chippy nature allowed his squad to better prepare for next week’s season opener.

“There were some over-the-top fouls, which honestly I didn’t like,” Yeagley said. “But, our guys dealt with it and kept their composure.” 

Yeagley noted that the Indiana bench was much shorter in the preseason finale, with a focus being put on assessing certain freshmen the coaching staff feels will play important roles in the team’s 2023 campaign. 

Alex Barger started the game on the left side of midfield, switching sides at the half. Defender Joel Demian, who Yeagley noted was newly-healthy, spent a substantial period of time at left back. But, Yeagley said the biggest preseason surprise is forward Clay Murador. 

“He’s got tremendous athletic tools,” Yeagley said. “(We) wanted to see him in a bigger role.” 

Yeagley emphasized the “beyond-their-years” composure of the freshman class, saying that it provided his squad with a confidence boost.

One player who played a seismic role in keeping Louisville off the scoreboard on Friday was senior defender Hugo Bacharach. After the Cardinals rattled off consecutive well-placed passes in the 73rd minute, they were poised for a threatening run up the right wing. 

Bacharach, a newly-added transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson University, sprinted full-tilt to close down the angle, sliding to knock the ball out of play for a corner kick with Louisville’s attack rapidly approaching freshman keeper Alex Kara.

“He’s 6-foot-4 and moves (much) differently than most 6-4 players,” Yeagley said of Bacharach. “His aerial play is just different – we haven’t had someone like that in a long time. Defensively, he has a composed presence, yet he’s fiery. He and (senior defender Joey Maher) immediately connected.”

Yeagley added that although Indiana’s defense looks comparatively different to its structure with longtime staple Daniel Munie gone, “It looks to be darn effective.” 

Bacharach, the newly-acquired Hoosier who looks to be tapped with filling Munie’s role, was also present on the Indiana attack, with an early-game header bouncing just wide of the net and an 80th-minute second-chance shot sailing above the crossbar off his right foot. Yeagley said Bacharach, who shares the title of ‘tallest player’ with Kara, will be a threat to score immediately following stoppages.

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Tommy Mihalic lines up a left-footed shot against Louisville on August 18. He would go on to score the lone goal of the match. (HN photo/Kal Graybill)

Indiana’s season begins with a trip to South Bend. Next Thursday, the Hoosiers will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a matchup that has seen some tight results in recent years. Indiana is undefeated against Notre Dame since 2017; however, the contests have been extremely close. 

Three of the six matches from 2018 onwards have gone to overtime, with Indiana winning 3-2 in double overtime in 2021, its last trip north. Next Thursday’s match will mark the 47th meeting between the two teams, the first coming back in Indiana’s inaugural 1973 campaign. 

“It’s always tight,” Yeagley said of matches between Indiana and Notre Dame. “They’re a good team, and well-coached. They have some new players just like we do.”

“The heat (next week) is going to be a little tough, so we’ll make sure the guys are ready for Thursday,” Yeagley said. “Our crowd is always a big lift. They’re going to do a good job getting a lot of Notre Dame fans there, but our IU fans are amazing (in South Bend). I think we’ll have a good presence.” 

Indiana’s season opener kicks off at 8 p.m. Thursday at Alumni Stadium in South Bend. The forecast calls for a high temperature of 98 degrees, though this will be a bit lower considering the early-evening start time. The game will be televised on ACC Network Extra. 

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