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Oliwia Wos’ decision to play soccer in America is hard for her to explain. The idea came up a few times while being recruited, but she never truly considered this option until one morning.
“I woke up one day in December and I knew I wanted to come to America,” Wos said. “It was really weird. The days before I was like, ‘Hell no, what is that? That’s just an adventure maybe, but that’s not something I really want to pursue,’ but then I did it. I don’t know what happened on this night, really. One good night sleep and I was like ‘America.’”
After growing up playing soccer in Germany and being a native of Olesno, Poland, the idea to play in America first came from being recruited by colleges. She would receive texts and emails from coaches recruiting her, but felt this wasn’t personal enough.
That all changed when a coach from Wake Forest approached her in person to see if Wos wanted to play soccer in the United States.
“This was such a different thing for me because if somebody comes to you in person, you see they really want you,” Wos said.
Wos decided to do some digging to find out if America was for her. She ultimately decided to play her freshman year of soccer at Wake Forest where she started 13 games at center back. She helped lead the back line for the Demon Deacons that advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament.
“I had a great time at Wake,” Wos said. “Even if soccer wasn’t the way I wanted it to be, I still had a great time. I grew as a person, mostly, not as a player. I wish I played more, but that’s just how it is.”
A big test for the Hoosiers arrived to Jerry Yeagley Field on Thursday in their matchup against Penn State, which head coach Erwin van Bennekom considers one of the best teams in the country.
A 63rd-minute goal from Penn State’s Kerry Abello was the difference maker in the Nittany Lions' 1-0 victory. Indiana forward Chandra Davidson had the team’s best chance in the game from inside the box in the 88th minute, but was unable to convert.
Three storylines stood out in Indiana’s first loss since Sept. 22:
Hoosiers show they can hang with an NCAA Tournament hopeful
Penn State entered the game with a 7-6-1 record, but won the regular-season Big Ten title last year and returned many key players such as First-Team All-Americans Kaleigh Riehl and Sam Coffey. Van Bennekom thinks of Penn State as one of the most well-coached teams in the country and is proud of the way his team competed.
“Ninety-nine percent of the game we were quality,” van Bennekom said. “But that 1 percent, we probably could have nicked a goal and defended that better.”
Indiana came out in the second half playing a more aggressive style and nearly found an equalizer on multiple occasions from Melanie Forbes, who had four shots, and Davidson with one. While van Bennekom said the team should be disappointed with the result, he was proud of the team’s defensive organization and ability to keep the ball in today’s game.
“I think we hung tight and worked extremely hard,” van Bennekom said. “We were pretty good with the ball for the most part. I’m nothing more than proud.”
No one will outwork the Hoosiers
Throughout the season, van Bennekom said he has heard many complaints about the way his team defends or gives the ball away, but no one has questioned this team’s work ethic.
“I don’t think anybody is going to outwork us,” van Bennekom said. “That’s one of our staples. We’re going to outwork anybody defensively and offensively, so I am proud of that part of our game.”
Van Bennekom has recently discussed the importance of strong defensive organization. Before Thursday's loss to Penn State, the Hoosiers had three consecutive shutouts. Indiana was unable to keep this streak alive, but van Bennekom doesn’t think this number in the loss column is indicative of his team’s hard work. In his mind, all they can do is prepare for the next game and maintain a strong work ethic.
“My biggest goal is to win the next game and we didn’t do that,” van Bennekom said. “This would have been a nice three points, but this Penn State team is going to be in the NCAA Tournament and they are going to grow and get better.”
Too much time wasted in the first half
The Hoosiers opened the game playing a very conservative style of soccer. Indiana seemed content to wait on a perfect chance in the first half, allowing the Nittany Lions to possess the ball for the majority of the half.
“To play with the composure we did I’m super proud,” van Bennekom said. “Obviously the way we played right away in a really passive defensive shape going 1-0 down against a team like this is always tough.”
While this strategy worked in the first half, leading to a 0-0 score at halftime, Indiana might regret not taking advantage of every opportunity throughout the game. The Hoosiers finished with seven total shots, but didn’t produce their best chances of the game until they were down 1-0.
“The first goal today was to win the game,” van Bennekom said. “Not to play well, not to show ourselves well, not to be in the game, it was to win, and we didn’t do that.”
Indiana has a quick turnaround with a game Sunday versus Ohio State, who comes into the matchup with a 4-7-1 record. This game will begin at noon ET and can be seen on BTN+. For van Bennekom, each game is just as important as the next.
“We have another big game Sunday and we have five more big games left,” van Bennekom said. “We are going to take this one game at a time and learn from this one and go on to the next one.”
In the 71st minute of Indiana’s game versus Nebraska on Sunday, the Hoosiers had one of their best chances to score. It came when Avery Lockwood’s shot from inside the box was saved by Nebraska goalkeeper Aubrei Corder, but rebounded to Grace Saccone who crossed the ball back to Lockwood.
Again, Lockwood’s header fell right into the hands of Corder, representing another missed opportunity from the Hoosiers. In Indiana’s 2-0 loss to the Cornhuskers, this season-long storyline remained unchanged.
The Hoosiers put up 11 shots, only three of which were on goal. Head coach Erwin van Bennekom was frustrated in his team’s inability to finish chances and test the goalkeeper, even when the team changed its gameplan to a more direct attack in the second half.
“I think we did a good job creating some opportunities, but I don’t think [Corder] even had to make a save,” van Bennekom said. “So, yes, we had some opportunities, but how much did we really test the goalkeeper?”
Against the Cornhuskers, Lockwood had four shots, one being on goal. Lockwood has three goals on the season, but her greatest struggle of finishing shots has represented the entire team’s greatest struggle this season.
The beginning of Big Ten play has been a prime example of this struggle for the Hoosiers. Against Iowa on Sept. 20, Indiana put up eight shots and was constantly threatening in the second half, but scored no goals.
Likewise, 15 total shots were taken, and nine put on goal, in Indiana’s 2-1 loss to Murray State on Aug. 30. These games along with the result against Nebraska will serve as serious learning opportunities for the Hoosiers.
“I think the next part of Avery’s game is finishing chances,” van Bennekom said. “The ball striking in front of goal and at the top of the 18 [yard box], what is she doing with the final ball?”
Lockwood’s relentless attack in the second half against Nebraska came in the form of a laser-shot to the top right corner that was tipped away in the 82nd minute. Again, Lockwood and the Hoosiers were left wishing that one of their chances would fall.
While Lockwood couldn’t convert any chances Sunday, van Bennekom sees a lot of promise from her going forward. This season, van Bennekom said he has seen great quality in Lockwood’s defending and the way she positions herself when the Hoosiers have the ball.
“I think finishing is the next step even though she has scored some goals,” van Bennekom said. “She could have had a couple more.”
In its first two Big Ten games, Indiana has lost 2-0 each time and squandered plenty of scoring chances. Van Bennekom tried to give the offense a boost by bringing the back line of defense up and pressing Nebraska further up the field, but the team was still not converting shots into goals.
Van Bennekom said finishing ability is something that not a lot of players have, but he believes there are a few players on this team that have that ability. Going forward, he hopes the team can put its players in a better position to score and finish.
“It’s tough. You can’t just snap your fingers,” van Bennekom said. “It’s just a tough situation right now, but we will deal with it and get better.”
Moving on, the Hoosiers will begin a three-game road trip when they take on Michigan State on Sept. 27. The road trip continues with matchups against Michigan on Sept. 29 and Illinois on Oct. 3.
Indiana was victorious in its two most recent road games against UT Martin and Kentucky and will look to break a two-game losing streak against the Spartans. This game can be seen on BTN+ at 7 p.m.
After a 2-0 road trip, the Indiana women’s soccer team will host a pair of games to kick off conference play this weekend versus No. 19 Iowa on Sept. 20 and Nebraska on Sept. 22.
The Hoosiers are riding a three-game win streak after a 2-1 win over UT Martin and a 1-0 win over Kentucky last week on the road. Oliwia Wos was the hero for Indiana, scoring an 86th-minute goal to complete a comeback versus UT Martin after trailing 1-0 at halftime. Avery Lockwood continued her personal success with an equalizing goal against UT Martin.
Following up this victory, all Indiana needed was a 17th-minute goal to take down Kentucky after Lockwood found Melanie Forbes for her first goal of the season. Head coach Erwin van Bennekom was happy with the way the team played in the first half versus Kentucky and thought the players fought hard in the second half to secure the win.
“Going on a five-day road trip against two great opponents in UT Martin and Kentucky and getting two wins is great,” van Bennekom said. “I appreciate all the effort and appreciate how our team fought all the way to the end. Coming home with two wins is a great feeling.”
While van Bennekom is pleased with these two wins, he knows Indiana will need to increase its level of play against Iowa.
“The last three wins, with all respect to those teams, I think they’re not even close to the level of Iowa, with all respect to those teams," he said.
Indiana improved its record to 4-3 on the season heading into its second matchup against a ranked team in No. 19 Iowa. Here are three keys for Indiana to continue its three-game win streak:
Limit Iowa’s attack
The Hawkeyes' strong offensive attack has propelled the team to an 8-0 start on the season, scoring three or more goals in five of the team’s eight games. This is a big jump from last season, as the team has already scored 25 goals this year, compared to just 20 last year.
Hannah Drkulec and Devin Burns lead the team with four goals each, followed by three goals each for Natalie Winters and Kaleigh Haus. The Hawkeyes possess elite depth with 13 goal-scorers on the year and 145 total shots, compared to just 89 from the Hoosiers.
In order for Indiana to contain this Iowa attack, it will be important for the entire team to defend as a unit, according to van Bennekom.
“We defend with 11 and we attack with 11,” van Bennekom said. “The way we stop them I think is defending from the front so it’s not just our back line and it’s not just the goalkeeper.”
Van Bennekom also recognizes Iowa’s ability to score off set pieces as something Indiana needs to focus on. He believes if the team can take Iowa out of these situations, they can take away a big part of their attack.
Defender Allison Jorden thinks defensive organization is key to stopping Iowa. Jorden thinks experience playing against North Carolina will help the team prepare for this matchup.
“In a few games, especially against some of the more dynamic offensive opponents, we have been great at all getting behind the ball and getting organized,” Jorden said.
Execute week-long preparation
While two road wins are sure to give any team confidence, van Bennekom believes the team’s confidence heading into conference play will come from preparation.
“We cannot look at UT Martin and Morehead State and Kentucky and say, ‘Oh, we won three and we feel good,’" he said. "I think it’s always nice to win three on the road, but I think that confidence comes from us being prepared.”
Van Bennekom hopes the team’s experience from playing Iowa last year will help, but is confident his scouting and preparation will make a difference. Being courageous on the ball and playing a clean game are two things van Bennekom is focusing on.
“I think we prepared well this week and we’re going to give it a shot,” van Bennekom said. “Congrats to Iowa and what they have done this season, but we’re looking forward to it.”
In Indiana’s game versus Morehead State on Sept. 8, Lockwood credited one of her goals to a shot the team had been working on in practice. It is this kind of execution this squad needs in order to pull off the upset.
Offensively, van Bennekom has seen the way Iowa has given up goals this season and said it is important for Indiana to be good on the ball in order to break down the Iowa defense.
“I think we have learned from that and know what we have to do with the ball to score on them,” van Bennekom said.
Chandra Davidson and Allison Jorden both agree the Big Ten is one of the most physical conferences in the country, and that’s exactly what they expect against Iowa. Davidson said physicality can result in any team winning any game in this conference.
“You walk off and your legs are falling off, your arms are falling off, everything is tired,” Jorden said. “But those are the games you love and the games you remember.”
Van Bennekom uses the Louisville game earlier in the season as an example of how the game will be played. He expects Iowa to play a physical game and give the Hoosiers another big test. While Iowa’s record might present them as a daunting opponent, Jorden said Indiana’s preparation will lead them to a competitive game.
“It is such a battle and everyone is so close and so full of talent,” Jorden said. “So it really is just going to depend on how we prepare for each game and treat every game as the most important game of the season because that’s what it is.”
Indiana’s Friday game will kick off at 3 p.m. On Sunday, the Hoosiers will play their second conference game against Nebraska at 1 p.m.. Both games can be seen on BTN+
“We are just going to have to be as switched on as possible," Jorden said. "We have to be ready for the physical battle that Iowa always puts up and just be ready to protect the home turf and fight for it.”
Riding a 4-0 lead Sunday against Morehead State, it would have been easy for the Indiana women’s soccer team to sit back and run out the clock. But coasting to an easy win wasn't something on freshman Avery Lockwood’s mind.
“We knew we couldn’t drop our intensity,” Lockwood said. “We just really wanted to put the game away and not let them come back.”
In the 67th minute, Lockwood fired a shot from well outside the box that steadily rose out of the reach of goalkeeper Kayla Landman and found the back of the net. While a shot from this distance would be difficult for most players, Lockwood didn’t need to put much thought into it.
Offensive inconsistencies plagued the Indiana women’s soccer team throughout its road trip this week. The inability to finish close chances came back to haunt the Hoosiers, as they finished with 15 shots but only one goal in a 2-1 loss against Murray State on Aug. 30.
After a 1-0 loss to undefeated Louisville on Sept. 5, the Hoosiers drop to 1-3-0 on the season. Before discussing Indiana’s next matchup against Morehead State on Sept. 8 in Bloomington, let’s review the Hoosiers’ road trip.
After the departure of Abby Allen and Mykayla Brown, who combined for 14 of Indiana’s 33 goals last year, the Indiana women’s soccer team turns to a familiar face as the facilitator of the offense. Senior forward Chandra Davidson was named the team captain on Aug. 13 by first-year head coach Erwin van Bennekom.
Davidson scored two goals on 27 shots last season to go along with five assists. She comes in with plenty of experience, having started every game during her sophomore and junior seasons. A two-time member of the academic All-Big Ten team, Davidson exemplifies the kind of player van Bennekom wants leading this team.
"[Davidson] is relentless and she brings the right attitude and that's why she's the captain,” van Bennekom said. “We have a leadership group that will help make sure the team runs smoothly and will look to Chandra to be the head of that."
Led by Davidson, the Hoosiers will travel to Chapel Hill on Aug. 22 to take on the no. 2 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels to begin their season at 6:30 p.m. The Tar Heels lost 1-0 to Florida State in the NCAA championship game last season, and are consistently regarded as one of the premier programs in women’s soccer, having won 21 NCAA tournament championships since 1982.
Indiana will look to build off of momentum gained in its two exhibition games versus Indiana State and Northwestern. The Hoosiers started exhibition play on a strong note after taking down Indiana State 3-0. Davidson, alongside midfielders Melanie Forbes and Allie Scholm, each found the back of the net against the Sycamores, while freshman forward Jamie Tottleben made a strong first impression with two assists.
In the second of two exhibition games, the Hoosiers fell 2-1 to Northwestern, with Davidson as the lone goal scorer for IU. Bethany Kopel and Caitlin Arbuckle both played in goal for the Hoosiers throughout exhibition play, but Kopel is expected to play the vast majority of time in goal this season. Kopel played all 18 games last year and allowed 30 goals, while saving 92 shots and earning four shutouts.
With the conclusion of exhibition games, the Big Ten conference announced the Preseason Honors List on Aug. 19. Earning this honor for Indiana was Davidson, sophomore defender Oliwia Wos and freshman midfielder Avery Lockwood. This is the second year in a row that Davidson has been voted on this list by coaches in the Big Ten.
Wos, a native of Olesno, Poland, joins the Hoosiers this season after playing her freshman season at Wake Forest. Wos started at center back in 13 games for the Demon Deacons, and made an appearance in three other games. She helped lead a defense that propelled Wake Forest to the third round of the NCAA tournament.
Lockwood, who committed to Indiana in January, was ranked as a 4-star prospect by TopDrawerSoccer. She represented the club Midwest United and comes from Rockford High School in Belmont, Michigan. Lockwood was also the no. 2 player in TopDrawerSoccer’s Great Lakes Regional Rankings, as well as no. 33 on the Girl IMG Academy 150 rankings.
van Bennekom’s first recruiting class features nine players, headlined by Lockwood. On Dec. 4, Indiana athletic director Fred Glass hired van Bennekom, who previously served as associate head coach at Duke University for four years. During his time at Duke, the Blue Devils were NCAA runners-up, and reached the NCAA quarterfinals, semifinals and round of 16. van Bennekom helped coach the team to a 68-17-11 record in his four years.
Even Mark Krikorian, head coach of the 2018 NCAA champion Florida State Seminoles, was impressed with this hire.
“I've had the chance over the last few years to observe an outstanding professional coach and believe he is going to grow the program and put IU in the NCAA Tournament and compete for championships," Krikorian said on Dec. 6.
van Bennekom, a native of the Netherlands, has experience as an assistant coach at the University of Alabama, as well as coaching multiple club teams since 2010.
The Hoosiers will begin their first season under van Bennekom with a seven-game non-conference schedule, featuring five road games. Last season Indiana finished non-conference play with a 4-1-2 record, only to finish the season at 8-8-2 after a 4-7 conference record.
Indiana will play its first home game on Sunday Aug. 25 at 1:00 p.m. versus the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Though the Hoosiers had an early exit from the Big Ten Tournament, losing to Iowa and Minnesota, they received a two-seed in the regional stage of the NCAA Tournament. Louisville will play host to the regional, including Indiana, along with three-seed Illinois State and four-seed University of Illinois-Chicago.
It took four hours and 46 minutes to decide a winner in the Hoosiers’ first matchup with Louisville, falling 8-7 in 12 innings on May 14. Indiana will be seeking revenge and a regional title this week at Jim Patterson Field, but will first have to take care of Illinois State at 2 p.m. on May 31.
Though Indiana comes in as the higher seed, Illinois State is ranked 26th in RPI, compared to Indiana’s ranking at 36. Let’s break down the matchup between the Hoosiers and Redbirds.
Indiana’s strength all season has been the long ball. While Arizona State stole the team home run lead at the end of the season with 92, the Hoosiers finished second with 90. Matt Lloyd and Cole Barr led the team with 16 home runs apiece, followed by Matt Gorski with 12.
The Hoosiers will be playing in similar field dimensions as their home stadium, the only major difference being the fence in right center field, which is 11 feet further at Jim Patterson Field. Indiana’s ability to hit home runs will certainly not be affected by the dimensions of the stadium this weekend.
While the Hoosiers will need to rely on their studs like Lloyd, Gorski and Barr to advance in the playoffs, depth was key to their regular season Big Ten title. Justin Walker has been a prime example of this depth recently, having 13 hits in his last 12 games played. Elijah Dunham has also been swinging a hot bat, with 17 hits in his last 9 games, bringing his average up to .305.
Illinois State is a team with almost polar opposite stats to the Hoosiers. Only hitting 50 home runs all season, the Redbirds are a team stacked with high-batting-average hitters. As a team, they batted .295 on the season, compared to .254 for Indiana.
Right fielder Joe Aeilts is the clean-up hitter for the Redbirds and posted a .350 batting average with 10 home runs and 46 RBI. Joe Butler plays third base and batted .323, tying the team lead in doubles with 14.
The Redbirds boast a lineup with five players batting .304 or higher. They also love to run the bases and put pressure on opposing defenses. Second baseman Derek Parola led the team with 14 stolen bases, Aeilts stole 13 bases, followed by Butler and center fielder John Rave each with 11.
Yet another lop-sided statistic, the Redbirds have 129 less strikeouts than Indiana this season, a stat that the Hoosiers led the Big Ten in by a wide margin. The Indiana defense will be busy with a patient Illinois State team that focuses on finding a way on base, posting a .375 on-base percentage.
Indiana’s Andrew Saalfrank was recently named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, but head coach Jeff Mercer is giving the ball to Pauly Milto for game one of the regional. While Saalfrank leads Indiana starting pitchers with a 2.58 ERA, it is not surprising that Mercer is sticking with the senior, Milto, in this situation.
Milto owns a 3.54 ERA along with 1.12 WHIP in 101.2 innings pitched this season. A concern for the Hoosiers in Friday games has been providing run support for Milto, who holds just an 8-6 record despite leading the team with 97 strikeouts.
Out of the bullpen, Mercer will likely look to Tommy Sommer (3.61 ERA), Connor Manous (2.61 ERA) and closer Matt Lloyd, who has five saves, to replace Milto. Gabe Bierman, who saved Indiana’s win over Rutgers to win the Big Ten, could also see heavy usage in the regional stage.
For the Redbirds, Brent Headrick will toe the rubber on Friday. Headrick is 9-3 with a 3.50 ERA in 90 innings of work. Strikeouts could play a big role in this game as the Hoosiers tend to be home run or bust at the plate, and Headrick has 101 strikeouts on the season.
Headrick’s most impressive start came on May 10 against Bradley when he pitched eight scoreless innings and struck out six batters. This win propelled the Redbirds into a tie for first place in the Missouri Valley Conference and boosted their RPI ahead of the postseason.
Illinois State head coach Steve Holm will likely use bullpen arms like closer Jacob Gilmore and Colton Johnson who have 11 and three saves, respectively. The Hoosiers could also see Michael Sebby (3.55 ERA), Mitch Vogrin (5.02 ERA) and Connor Peplow (4.76 ERA) should Headrick have an early exit.
While Indiana is the higher seed in this matchup, Illinois State is regarded as one of the stronger three-seeds in the field, as shown by their 26th RPI ranking.
First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. from Jim Patterson Field in Louisville, Kentucky. The game can be seen on ESPN3.
After losing two of three games to Illinois this past weekend, Indiana (31-16) will travel to face Kentucky (23-24) this Tuesday. The Hoosiers will look to rebound after their first series loss since Feb. 24 against Tennessee.
Coming into this matchup, Indiana sits two and a half games back of Michigan in the Big Ten. While this game will have no effect on the Big Ten standings, it could help the Hoosiers boost their RPI as postseason play approaches and get their confidence back heading into the big series with Michigan this upcoming weekend.
Indiana is currently ranked 28th in RPI and fell out of the top 25 after struggling against Illinois. The Wildcats are ranked 42nd in RPI and own the fourth best strength of schedule in a very competitive Southeastern conference.
Kentucky is 3-7 in their last 10 games, but most recently beat Arkansas, who is ranked 4th in RPI and has a great chance of hosting a regional. Last season, Kentucky beat Indiana 7-6 and have won the last three matchups.
Here is what to expect from both sides ahead of Tuesday’s game.
Indiana was shutout in game one and only scored one run in the second game versus Illinois, but bounced back with a nine-run outburst on Sunday. Home runs from Elijah Dunham, Cole Barr and Ryan Fineman helped the Hoosiers avoid a sweep and provided some momentum for their matchup with Kentucky.
Fineman has been a key addition to the lineup for Indiana after coming back from injury on April 23. Replacing Wyatt Cross in Indiana’s lineup, Fineman has four RBI since his return and has provided power towards the bottom of the order.
Justin Walker has started to heat up for the Hoosiers with five hits in the last six games. Walker earned the job at shortstop over Jeremy Houston midway through the season and has shown potential defensively, as well, in his sophomore season.
The Wildcats’ lineup is anchored by Ryan Shinn, who leads the team with 13 home runs, and TJ Collett, who has a team-high 38 RBI. Ryan Johnson has only started 11 games this season, but has been the team’s lead-off hitter recently, owning a .342 batting average.
Breydon Daniel is a base stealing threat for the Wildcats, as he has only been caught stealing on five of 22 attempts this season. Jaren Shelby and Austin Schultz are also dangerous on the basepaths with 11 and 10 stolen bases, respectively.
For the Hoosiers, Tommy Sommer will take the mound for his second midweek start of the season. Sommer has a 4-2 record with a 2.76 ERA in four starts and six relief appearances.
Sommer last appeared against Illinois this past weekend where he pitched 1.2 innings and didn’t allow a run. He also pitched twice in relief in the Minnesota series as a closer, combining to pitch 1.2 innings of perfect baseball with three strikeouts.
Sommer’s last start was a midweek contest against Ball State where he pitched six innings, allowed four hits and two runs and struck out 10 Cardinals to just one walk.
Kentucky has yet to name a starter, but in a majority of their midweek games either sophomore Mason Hazelwood or freshman Dillon Marsh have started.
Hazelwood is a lefty who owns a 3.90 ERA, the best among their midweek starters. He’s pitched 32.1 innings this season and has a 2-3 record with 36 strikeouts and 17 walks.
Marsh is another lefty who has struggled at times, recording a 5.66 record in his 12 starts. Marsh has started in midweek games as well as weekend games. He has 42 strikeouts in 41.1 innings pitched.
Other options could include redshirt-junior Grant Macciocchi or freshman Alex Degen, both right handers. With such a left-handed heavy lineup for the Hoosiers, it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of the lefties pitch Tuesday.
Indiana looks to build off of Sunday's offensive output and forget about Friday and Saturday, not only to win this game on Tuesday but to prepare for a do-or-die series with the top dog in the Big Ten, the Michigan Wolverines.
First pitch for Tuesday's Indiana vs. Kentucky matchup is set for 7 p.m. at Kentucky Proud Park and will be broadcasted on the SEC Network.
After being shut down by Minnesota’s Max Meyer on Friday, a series that carried important Big Ten ranking implications was in question for Indiana. The Hoosiers were outplayed for most of Saturday’s game, but a walk-off three-run home run forced a rubber match.
Indiana came out ready to play on Sunday, Head Coach Jeff Mercer said, and contributions from all over the field led a resilient squad to their seventh series win in a row.
“You could feel the energy was back,” Mercer said. “You could feel the confidence was back. We kind of got the monkey off our back.”
This has been a common theme for Indiana, as Sunday’s 7-1 win over Minnesota marks the third time this season the Hoosiers have come back from a Friday loss to win the series.
“From that point forward, you look at the ability to respond from that and recover from that,” Mercer said. “We have continued to show that we have that ability and we have to become that. That has to be our identity forevermore.”
Scotty Bradley knocked in two runners and led the way for an Indiana offense that didn’t need to rely on the home-run ball today. The Hoosiers lead the country with 72 home runs, but were able to find run production through base hits alone on Sunday.
“Today was obviously a nice blend of all things with us being able to string some things together and capitalizing on some of their mistakes as well,” Bradley said.
While Indiana has had an identity of hitting a lot of home runs this season, Bradley said this isn’t intentional.
“Home runs really do come by accident,” Bradley. “All we are trying to do is hit balls hard through the big part of the field and if they go, they go.”
The frequency with which Indiana hits home runs has also resulted in a lot of strikeouts. While Indiana leads the Big Ten and the nation in home runs, they also lead the conference in strikeouts, creating a “feast or famine” offense.
While the Hoosiers can tend to be home run or bust, Mercer isn’t worried about the strikeouts as long as they come in deep counts.
“The strikeouts, I am indifferent because the pitch count is more important and doing damage is more important,” Mercer said.
With such a deep offensive lineup, Mercer said that recently teams have been throwing off-speed pitches to try to keep Indiana hitters balance. The Hoosiers were able to hit off-speed pitches today, forcing Minnesota’s starter Joshua Culliver to exit before the first inning was over.
When Indiana is able to hit a someone’s secondary pitches, it forces the opposition to try something new. Today, Mercer said Indiana did a great job of throwing Minnesota pitchers off their game plan.
“If plan B was as good as plan A, it would be plan A,” Mercer said. “We made an adjustment in game and in this weekend and we got better and it proved to be the winning piece today.”
With today’s win, the Hoosiers sit a half game back from the Michigan Wolverines in the Big Ten Standings. Indiana will travel to Ann Arbor on May 10 for a three game series that could go a long way in deciding the Big Ten champion.
Heading down the home stretch of the Big Ten schedule, Mercer hopes the resiliency the Hoosiers shown today will carry on.
“As long as I am associated with this program, as long as they will have me, that has to be our identity for this year and moving forward and we can’t ever go back,” Mercer said.
Indiana's struggles continued Thursday night in Ann Arbor with a 67-58 loss to the Michigan Wolverines, as a potential NCAA tournament berth moved a little further out of reach.
A strong second quarter gave Indiana the five-point lead at the half, but a lack of depth gave way to the Michigan win, a fifth straight for the maize and blue. Though the Hoosiers had their opportunities throughout to take advantage, the effort just couldn't be sustained.
Second half struggles plague Hoosiers
A common theme throughout the season continued for the Hoosiers Thursday night on the road. Since day one, it has at times been a struggle to piece all 40 minutes together and sustain a high level of play from start to finish. Once again, Indiana proved to be slow out of the gate, digging itself an 8-2 deficit in the first quarter.
Though the Hoosiers outscored the Wolverines altogether 15-8 in the second quarter, a slow start to the third period made it even tougher on Teri Moren's squad to come out on top. A 7-0 run from Michigan to start the half ignited the Wolverines, and there was no looking back from there.
A slow second half also resulted in head coach Moren to look to her bench due to foul trouble. Brenna Wise and Kym Royster each finished with four fouls, while sophomore Jaelynn Penn committed three. The Hoosiers finished with 21 total team fouls, giving the Wolverines a total of 17 free opportunities from the charity stripe.
“I said to our players that other teams don’t need help scoring,’” Moren said. “Our lack of discipline really showed up in the third.”
Indiana couldn’t find much production from its bench, as Aleksa Gulbe, Keyanna Warthen and Linsey Marchese were a combined 4-14 from the field, only contributing nine points as a unit.
Hoosiers again miss Patberg
In their second full game without point guard and scoring leader Ali Patberg, who continues to sit with a shoulder injury, the Hoosiers looked elsewhere for an offensive spark.
“When you shoot 21 more shots than your opponent, you're supposed to win games,” Moren said. "As I said to our players, other teams don't need help scoring."
Bendu Yeaney and Jaelynn Penn scored 16 and 15 points respectively, but not at the most efficient clip. The duo combined to shoot 13-32 from the field, and weren’t nearly enough to carry Indiana’s offense alone. It's been another story to follow for this program this year; no one can do it alone, and on a night where IU really did need everyone to contribute in order to stay close, other role players couldn't answer the call.
Without a true point guard, Indiana seemed out of rhythm offensively and was unable to find consistent offensive production, especially in the second half. Shooting 37 percent from the field, the simple fact of not hitting open shots hurt the Hoosier’s chances tonight.
NCAA tournament hopes in question
Heading into its matchup against Michigan, it was clear that this program was in desperation mode -- desperate to get back in the win column and desperate to get back on track. Losers of seven of their last nine games, Indiana now sits at 11th place in the Big Ten with a 6-8 record.
Recently slotted as a 9-seed in Charlie Creme’s ESPN Bracketology, the Hoosiers are now squarely on the bubble. Indiana will have two more opportunities to beat ranked teams when they face no. 23 Rutgers and no. 14 Iowa at home next week.
“We have got to continue to look forward to next week,” Moren said. “Nobody feels sorry for the Hoosiers and nobody cares, so we have got to move forward.”
Ali Patberg fearlessly drove the lane, but fell hard on her shoulder. A silent Assembly Hall watched as she walked to the locker room, forcing an exit midway through the third quarter in Indiana’s matchup versus Minnesota.
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Indiana was down 2-0 going into the final five minutes of regulation. Two goals within three minutes sent the match to overtime before Indiana scored a game winner in overtime.
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