Things couldn’t have gone much better for Indiana men’s soccer in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament.
The Hoosiers blanked Connecticut 4-0 behind four different goal-scorers. It was one of the most dominant performances of the 2018 season, and once again, the Hoosiers spent Thanksgiving in Bloomington.
Air Force now awaits Indiana in the Sweet 16 of the tournament, and the Hoosiers will be taking on an unfamiliar foe. It will be the first time the Hoosiers will face an opponent from the Western Athletic Conference.
Now, let’s dive into this week’s Tale of the Tape.
A First Time for Everything
The Hoosiers and the Falcons will match up for the first time this season, and it will also be the first time both teams have faced each other’s conferences — Indiana has yet to face a team from the WAC, and Air Force has yet to face a team from the Big Ten.
It is a unique fact that will carry into this week’s matchup. Both teams aren’t familiar with the other’s conference, let alone each other. To make things even more clouded, it is just the second time in program history that the Hoosiers will face Air Force. The lone time the two teams met was back in 2002 where the Hoosiers came out on top 2-0 in a non-conference regular season match.
If there’s any match in the tournament with the least amount of familiarity, this one has to be near the top.
Like I said before, Air Force is the second-straight unranked opponent that Indiana has face in this year’s tournament. The Falcons reached the tournament as an at-large team after falling to Grand Canyon 1-0 in the WAC Semifinals. Yet, the Falcons had a dominant match against Central Arkansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, beating the Bears 4-0.
— AF MEN'S SOCCER (@AirForceSoccer) November 16, 2018
They then knocked off 9-seeded Denver 2-1 in the Round of 32 on the road. Air Force is as hot as any team right now in the tournament and is one of the most dangerous as well.
IU backline vs. Austin Dewig/Tucker Bone: Of the 54 goals scored by the Falcons this season, 25 of them have come from the duo of Bone and Dewig. Bone leads with 13 while Dewig has 12. These two are the go-to guys for Air Force and against a stout backline like Indiana, the Falcons will need them to be on top of their games.
Indiana has given up just three goals since its loss at Kentucky on October 3. The entire backline has been stellar all season long and they are playing their best soccer as of late. But if Bone and Dewig get loose, it could be a tough day for the Hoosiers.
#WACtopPlay Nominee - @AF_Falcons "Bone Chip" WAC Offensive Player of the Year Tucker Bone scores his final goal at home with a sweet chip in the NCAA Tournament to help the Falcons advance! Vote using the poll! @AirForceSoccer pic.twitter.com/ebKXmvBAcF
— WACsports (@WACsports) November 19, 2018
It’s tough to beat a team like Denver in the NCAA Tournament because of how successful the team has been all season. It’s even more impressive to beat the Pioneers in their own stadium. Air Force was able to do both and build even more momentum than it already had.
This match will be one of the best the tournament has to offer because of how dominant both teams have been. It remains to be seen if sophomore forward Justin Rennicks will be available for selection for Indiana, and if he is, then the Hoosiers will be getting one of the most talented young strikers in America back on their roster. Even if the Hoosiers do have Rennicks back, it will still be a match that they will have to gain a lot of possession.
Air Force has a lot of talent in the midfield and they are a team that makes others pay for their mistakes. Don’t be surprised if the match goes to overtime, too.