The result of Wednesday night’s match between IU and Michigan was supposed to determine IU’s fate regarding whether or not it reached its first Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament since 2013.
However, it was the final score of a game in University Park, Pennsylvania that actually decided IU's fate.
Ohio State’s 2-0 defeat at Penn State ensured that regardless of what happened in Bloomington, IU would be returning to the postseason. This meant the result of the Hoosiers’ final match of the regular season would determine their seeding for the playoffs.
As such, IU’s 3-2 loss to Michigan on Senior Night ensured it would be seeded eighth out of eight teams for the postseason conference tournament. While IU Coach Amy Berbary was pleased at qualifying for the postseason, she was also disappointed at her team’s execution in the final minutes against Michigan.
“It’s great. I’m happy for the kids that we got in, but I thought we let this one get away from us, unfortunately,” Berbary said. “At this point in the season, it’s about attention to detail.”
IU appeared set to clinch its playoff berth in style as it led Michigan 2-1 with six minutes to play, but a pair of late goals gave the visitors the victory. A low shot by Michigan senior forward Nicky Waldeck tied the match 2-2 in the 84th minute, before Michigan junior midfielder Ani Sarkisian scored the winning goal with 136 seconds left to play.
The defeat snaps a five-match unbeaten run for the Hoosiers, their longest since the 2007 season. It was this run that helped propel IU into its spot among the Big Ten’s top eight teams, a position that extends the careers of IU’s three senior players.
“We continued to work hard every day, and I think it’s finally paying off,” IU senior midfielder Veronica Ellis said. “I can say it’s really exciting for myself, but I’m really excited also for the underclassmen. For the first time, they’re seeing that the work they put in really does pay off in the end.”
A ceremony took place prior to Wednesday’s game on Jerry Yeagley Field to honor Ellis, along with senior defenders Marissa Borschke and Ari Kowalski. These three players are the only members of the IU team who were able to experience its latest trip to the playoffs.
When it came time for the match to start, though, it was a pair of IU sophomores who shone.
Sophomore forwards Mykayla Brown and Maya Piper scored in the sixth and 78th minutes, respectively. On each occasion, the goals by Brown and Piper put IU into the lead, although IU failed to hold the lead each time.
Brown in particular has starred for IU this season, accounting for seven of the team’s 24 goals.
Several of Brown’s goals have proved significant in terms of IU reaching the Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament as well.
She scored the winning goal in extra time Sept. 18 to defeat Illinois 1-0 in IU’s first conference game, and she also scored both IU goals in a 2-2 draw with Purdue on Oct. 22.
“It feels great to be able to score seven goals,” Brown said. “It means a lot to me to be able to come back from an ACL tear last season and be able to help the team record the wins we have.”
As the eighth seed, IU will face the Big Ten regular season champion Minnesota on the road in its quarterfinal matchup in the conference tournament. With the quarterfinal to be played at a still to be determined time on Sunday, not all the logistical details are in place for the Hoosiers.
But IU knows it’s in the playoffs, and there is still at least one more match left in its season.
“Anything can happen in the postseason,” Berbary said. “You just have to get there. Getting there is the most difficult thing. It’s hard to wrap my mind around how much this team has progressed so quickly.”
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