It’s not a rare day when IU senior defender Grant Lillard scores a goal, but it doesn’t happen all that often.
Lillard’s goal scoring total has gone down by one each season since his freshman year. He scored five, then four, then three a season ago. Saturday, he found the back of the net for the first time as a senior.
It was a sequence in which freshman forward Mason Toye whiffed. Then, it was freshman winger Griffin Dorsey having his shot saved from point blank range. Unfortunately for the Santa Clara Broncos, Lillard was standing right in front of goal. It was an easy tap in for the defender in the end.
It broke the seal, and IU coasted to a 5-0 win. Lillard said it was great to score, but it’s all about the defense with him.
“I’m more happy about the shutout and the team defense we’ve been able to put together so far this year,” Lillard said. “We take a lot of pride in it. We continue to shut teams down and not give them any answers.”
Lillard is part of a well-heralded backline. They have now amassed 419 minutes of game time without allowing a goal. It’s now four straight clean sheets and eight total. With one more clean sheet, they can tie an all-time IU record with five straight matches.
The backline has been well thought of, but getting Lillard on the scoresheet adds yet another attacking option for the Hoosiers. IU Coach Todd Yeagley said they had been dangerous on restarts, and he said he thinks Lillard could be due for a few more at some point.
“Grant has a lot of goals through his career,” Yeagley said. “Because of his history, and he’s so locked in at taking care of the defense, I wasn’t worried. It’s another weapon and you expect Grant to get a couple. It was nice to see Grant get one.”
After Saturday’s win, Yeagley said the first thing his team mentioned was posting another shutout.
Bloomington Bagel Company has a promotion for fans, giving out free bagels if they come in with their ticket stub following an IU shutout on defense. With the pace the Hoosiers are on right now, they are going to be giving out a lot of free bagels. Lillard and the rest of the backline have a lot to do with that.
“They want their bagels as much as everyone else does,” Yeagley said. “They love their shutouts. I’m not scripting that, they love to not give teams goals.”
Yeagley said he loves seeing his defense shine as much as his offense. Led by Lillard and the defense, the Hoosiers are playing well and having fun doing it. That’s a dangerous thing for a team already ranked No. 1 in the country.
The Hillsdale, Illinois, native has taken it on himself this season to be the leader of the backline. He’s done quite a good job at that. Yeagley said he has wanted to take his senior captain out at certain points, but Lillard just doesn’t want to come out.
“I like playing, so it works out pretty well,” Lillard said. “We got a good group back there and a lot of good chemistry, we’ve played together for a good amount of time.”
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