It’s now or never for the IU women’s soccer team if it hopes to make the Big Ten Conference Tournament.
The Hoosiers are coming off a disappointing road trip that saw them return to Bloomington with only one point out of a possible six.
Unfortunately, IU's road to the postseason doesn’t get much easier as it plays two more Big Ten teams this weekend, beginning with Iowa at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
“Iowa is kind of in the same boat as we are,” IU Coach Amy Berbary said. “They’ve had some good wins and have dropped some games that maybe they shouldn’t have, so I think that it’s going to be an all-out battle with really who wants it more.”
The Hawkeyes have posted two straight shutouts against No. 23 Rutgers and Maryland. Iowa also held both teams to a combined 16 shots.
Ironically, Iowa has yet to win a Big Ten road game, and IU has yet to win a Big Ten home game.
In 2015, the last time these two teams met, it was a defensive battle that ended in a 0-0 tie after double overtime.
“Our mindset hasn’t changed,” Berbary said. “We do what we’re supposed to do, and we don’t put too much pressure on ourselves. I think if we just settle in and play the way we’re capable of playing, the outcome will happen for us.”
The one thing the Hoosiers have been able to hang their hat on is their defensive play. Despite giving up three goals against Minnesota last Friday night, the Hoosiers shut out Wisconsin on Sunday. Berbary said the performance gave her excitement for her team before this weekend's matches.
“I think we need to play the way we did on Sunday,” Berbary said. “We just need to go with the mindset that we’ve got nothing to lose, and I think we’ve put it all together finally, and we just need to make sure to take care of our chances this Thursday and Sunday.”
Even though IU has been reliable on defense, the offense has struggled during Big Ten play. IU has been outscored by its conference opponents, 11-7.
The Hoosiers seem to have earned plenty of opportunities around the net to score, but they have been struggling to convert on the shots given to them.
“We’ve had more opportunities around the box, and we’ve just been off," senior midfielder Kylie Kirk said. "If we just focus on the small details and maybe get a couple more chances, we can finally put one away."
After the matchup with the Hawkeyes, IU will welcome Nebraska to Bill Armstrong Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Last season, the Hoosiers fell to the Cornhuskers, 1-0, on a header in the 52nd minute.
These next two games will tell a lot about how IU wants its season to end.
The Hoosiers show flashes of potential to play with the Big Ten's elite, but they have been unable to put together a complete package consistently, and this weekend provides them a chance to control their destiny.
“It’s getting to the point where it’s do or die for us, so if we really want to make it to the Big Ten Tournament, we have to put everything in these games,” Kirk said. “We have great opportunities against well-ranked teams that can help us get ourselves in a good position for postseason games."
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