The concept of experience was a motif for the IU women’s soccer team this season.
Whether it was used in highlighting the youth of a team that included 11 true freshmen, or when discussing the leadership offered by the team’s three seniors, experience at the collegiate level was a defining factor for IU.
However, IU Coach Amy Berbary said she feels the experience gained by this year’s team will only be to its benefit in future seasons.
“We are only losing three players and remaining with 24 from this year’s team, which is pretty rare,” Berbary said. “We need to run with that this offseason. We were very young this season, and with experience, things begin to happen.”
To a significant extent, big changes already occurred within the program this season. After winning three conference games in 2014 and zero last season, the Hoosiers responded with a 4-4-3 record in Big Ten regular season play. This represented the most conference wins for IU since 2013, the last time IU reached the Big Ten Tournament before this season.
It took contributions from nearly every member of IU to reach the Big Ten postseason as the final seed.
Sophomore forward Mykayla Brown recovered from an ACL injury last season to score eight goals. Freshman defender Meghan Scott, one of three freshmen to play in all 20 matches for IU, starred in her role as the team’s set-piece specialist and led the team with seven assists.
The most noticeable performance from an incoming player came at the goalkeeper position. Freshman Sarah L’Hommedieu beat out freshman Bristal Hadley-Mautino for the starting job early in the season and showed no signs of relinquishing it.
L’Hommedieu tallied 93 saves, the most saves of any goalkeeper in the Big Ten through the first round of the conference tournament.
Despite this, Berbary said she feels it was the difference made by each of the team’s three seniors that helped make a return to the postseason a reality.
“Our seniors have set such an example on the field and off the field,” Berbary said. “They’ve set the bar very high. Their leadership has been incredible, and the younger kids want to emulate that.”
Berbary’s praise for IU’s seniors, defender Marissa Borschke, midfielder Veronica Ellis and defender Ari Kowalski, comes as a result of the commitment they showed to her and the IU program.
This senior class was the first to be coached exclusively by Berbary after her appointment in February 2013.
As such, those three experienced both the highs and lows of the team during their time as Hoosiers, although Berbary knows they will always be a part of the program.
“Marissa, V and Ari will be watching from afar for sure,” Berbary said. “Whether they’ve known it or not, they’ve left such a lasting impression.”
Ultimately, it was a combination of the guidance from IU’s veteran players and the spark from its newcomers that allowed the team to thrive in Berbary’s fourth year as coach. Given the amount of youth on the team, its transformation into a Big Ten Tournament team after being selected to finish 12th in the conference was a sizeable achievement for Berbary and her staff.
With many players from this year’s group returning next season, things are looking up for the Hoosiers.
“The future is bright,” Berbary said.
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