Indiana men’s soccer began its 2023 slate with an exhibition match versus Wright State University on Friday night at Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington. The Hoosiers defeated the Raiders 1-0 in the four-quarter, 120-minute affair, with the lone goal coming from Karsen Henderlong in the 56th minute.
The forward sprinted towards the left side of the six-yard box and cashed in on a backside pass from freshman forward Alex Barger – a play that associate head coach Kevin Robson described as “fantastic.”
“That’s one you draw up on the training ground,” Robson said after the game.
Indiana is just three days into its preseason, holding two practices on Wednesday and Thursday prior to Friday’s exhibition. Robson said Barger was up to the task.
“Alex has played really well, and he earned the opportunity tonight. He got right into the game and got better as it went (along).”
No player saw the pitch for more than 60 minutes in Friday’s exhibition, with Robson noting there were varying groups of Hoosiers on the field at any moment. “A lot of new faces, a lot of new combinations, but overall I was really happy with the way the group played,” he said.
There are ten true freshmen on the Indiana roster this season, and Henderlong, a senior, complemented the newcomers’ willingness to quickly become part of the team. Henderlong and other veterans warmed up alongside the freshmen prior to the match, and Henderlong attributed this early-season camaraderie to the younger players taking it upon themselves to branch out.
“I have to give credit to the class that’s come in. They’ve been pretty outgoing. They haven’t stayed in their shells. Us older guys have (also) stepped out, reached out to them and made sure they feel welcome,” he said. “We’re all one big team, not little groups everywhere.”
With the influx of freshmen comes a new level of depth that Henderlong regarded as a valuable asset. “There’s a lot of depth,” he said.
“Especially in the front. There are a lot of guys who can play a lot of positions. It’s good for us: Great guys (come) off the bench for 15-20 minutes, and then (we) bring in another guy who’s fresh. We get to run at defenders who are a bit tired. That’s a strength of this team.”
Senior goalkeeper JT Harms was not tested heavily in his first appearance of 2023, but he shone when called upon. He had two crucial saves in the second quarter, the second of which led to Indiana’s game-deciding goal.
Indiana played most of the game on the attack, forcing Wright State’s defense to work overtime. The Hoosiers out–shot the Raiders 18-3 and took ten corner kicks to Wright State’s four. It was a physical game, especially late – the two squads combined for 23 fouls, with Wright State committing 13.
Senior forward Maouloune Goumballe looked particularly sharp in Friday’s exhibition, dribbling his way through two Wright State defenders on a handful of occasions, one of which nearly ended in a goal. Junior forward Tommy Mihalic was positioned well, but lost his footing on the scoring attempt in the 24th minute.
The Goumballe-Mihalic tandem and the rest of Indiana’s highly-touted offense will have two more tune-up games, with an exhibition versus Bowling Green University scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kick-off on Tuesday, August 15, at Grand Park in Westfield.
The Hoosiers wrap up their preseason slate against the University of Louisville at 8 p.m. on Friday, August 18, at Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington. The regular season begins at 8 p.m. on Thursday, August 24, when Indiana visits South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.