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Column: Undefeated start should worry conference foes

By Matt Smith

OK. I admit, I thought the No. 9 IU soccer team (5-0-2) was in trouble with a somewhat unproductive preseason.

Wow, was I wrong or what?

With the Hoosiers not playing up to their full potential, it was easy to question what to expect this season. They seemed somewhat flat in the preseason, and the offense was not complementing their defensive play.

Their offensive struggles continued in the first match of the season against the University of Notre Dame, which lead to a 0-0 draw.

Since the Hoosiers left South Bend, they have been the team many envisioned at the beginning of the season. The slow start has since become a distant memory after their solid performance in the first seven games.

Other Big Ten teams should not be looking forward to their upcoming dates with the Hoosiers. IU is clearly the best team in the conference thus far, and it remains the lone undefeated team in the conference.

The preseason pick to win the Big Ten regular season title is hitting its stride, and it comes at just the right time.

The Hoosiers are also among the three Big Ten teams to find their name in the Division 1 Top 25 this week. No. 15 Penn State and No. 24 Ohio State are the other two teams that join IU on that list.

IU plays Penn State in their Big Ten conference opener Friday.

Indiana must continue its impressive defensive play and execute its shots on goal if it hopes to win. Mistakes could lead to the first loss of the season, as Penn State is a very similar team to Indiana.

The Hoosiers’ defense as a whole has been nothing short of incredible thus far. They’ve hoisted four shutouts in seven games. The offense has outscored its opponents 16-4.

Penn State has not played as impressive a schedule as IU, but do not count it out. It boasts six shutouts, scoring 10 goals to its opponents’ three.

If the Hoosiers can get by Penn State, the rest of the conference slate gets a little easier. The other five competing members of the Big Ten — Ohio State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State — have a combined 13-19-5 record. IU also has five contests remaining against non-conference teams, but the team is in good shape to finish among the nation’s elite.

At the season’s beginning, it was in question who would be the leader of the 2011 squad. However, in four weeks of the Big Ten Conference announcing Player of the Week honors, IU has had a player announced each week. This week it was senior defender Tommy Meyer, who was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.

Having a conference player of the week each week is huge for the Hoosiers and is the reason they are the Big Ten’s best team thus far. If the team looks to continue to be successful, this streak must continue.

No matter what happens this weekend, the slow start of IU’s past is long gone. The Hoosiers are for real.

If they continue to play like the last three weeks, do not just expect a Big Ten title. Expect that eighth star to be added to the IU Soccer logo.

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