On a surprisingly beautiful Nov. 16 evening, the Indiana men’s soccer team was staring down the barrel of tournament play where its first test was against the high-powered offense of Lipscomb in the first round. The Hoosiers put together two strong halves to come away with a 2-1 victory.
“The boys are doing their job…I love it,” Indiana senior defender and captain Joey Maher said.
Indiana set the tone pretty much right away as the Hoosiers were firing off shots early to put some pressure on backup keeper for Lipscomb, Harrison Gough, who was in for the suspended Juan Carlos Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was given a red card in the Atlantic Sun (ASUN) conference championship against Bellarmine for a blatant handball outside the box. Granted, the infraction saved a would-be goal, but created a significant difference in the match played on Thursday evening.
“We did want to put them under pressure…(Gough’s) feet are inconsistent at times,” Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said.
The Hoosiers began to take more advantage of the gap in the back as in the 32nd minute, freshman Collins Oduro was more patient than he had been all season long at the top of the box to put a powerful shot on frame, giving Indiana the 1-0 lead.
“He’s had a really good year for us…he could have had another for us and was disappointed heading into the half,” Yeagley said.
The moment that Yeagley is referring to came with just 10 seconds remaining in the half where a great ground ball was played right to the foot of Oduro at the top of the box where he had a quality strike on it. However, it went right to the hands of Gough to close out the first 45 minutes of play.
“We have the utmost confidence in them…and they’ve been ballin' out,” Maher said in reference to Oduro and fellow freshman Alex Barger playing in their first NCAA Tournament game.
The second period of play brought some pressure onto the Hoosiers as the Lipscomb attack had some scares for the Indiana defense with some quick counters.
“We knew we had to get at them quickly and not let them get in full stride,” Maher said.
Maher is referring to the attacking duo of Tyrese Spicer and Malachi Jones who each put up prolific seasons to be named to the First Team All-ASUN Team. Spicer was named ASUN Player of the Year for his 13 goals prior to this match.
With the presence that Lipscomb was presenting on offense, there were some exposures in the defending third that led to a heroic solo goal.
Maouloune Goumballe was sent a ball on the left side of the box and was able to track it down with his pace and keep it right on the touchline. The fifth-year senior darted towards net and put a low strike right by Gough to bag the second goal of the match, extending the lead to 2-0.
“I knew the center back was going to try and shield it out. So I tried to get around him without fouling because his back was to me,” Goumballe said about keeping the ball in. “Thankfully I got it, beat the one guy, and just kept it on frame.”
“He has been Mr. November,” Yeagley said.
It’s hard to detect a lie from Yeagley’s statement. With that goal, Goumballe has now tallied four goals in four matches played in the month of November.
Even in moments that aren’t from the attack Goumballe has shown an added presence to step up. He is consistently one of the lone men back on most set pieces and corners and there were quite a few potential counters that were nullified by the Cincinnati native.
Defensively, to reiterate, there was quite a bit of work cut out for JT Harms and the Hoosier back line, where Lipscomb was able to capitalize on an opportunity.
In the 84th minute of play Spicer got his, as he has done all season long, with an absolute rocket to the top shelf off the left foot.
“For (Spicer), when you give him a half chance, he’s lethal,” Yeagley said. “I was disappointed in the end, obviously we are advancing but this team had not been shutout and we were close to doing so.”
Over the past two matches the Indiana defense has found a strong form that has propelled them into the round of 32. With some late-game adjustment, Indiana was able to close out the game.
Goumballe was moved to an outside back role in the final stretch of the game where he added a new layer to an already well structured backline.
Indiana will head to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons who were granted a national seed as the No. 10 team in the country. For the Hoosiers, there is a rare sense of being an underdog heading into Sunday’s clash.
“There’s a little bit of an underdog mentality…I think the boys are going to love this matchup,” Maher said.
Yeagley explained a quick turnaround process for Indiana as it seems the team will be heading out Friday evening to North Carolina where the Demon Deacons await for a 5 p.m. kickoff on Sunday.