IU women's soccer savors the underdog role.
The Hoosiers will have to be underdogs once again Saturday when they attempt to pull off the upset.
IU hosts the No. 25 Rutgers Scarlet Knights Saturday at 5 p.m. in a game that is a must win if IU hopes to remain in the hunt for a Big Ten Tournament bid.
“I think we ride that underdog mentality,” IU Coach Amy Berbary said. “We know it’s not like a secret of what’s at stake. We have to walk away at 7 o’clock on Saturday night with three points and I think that we’re up for the challenge.”
IU is no stranger to playing ranked opponents.
Earlier in the season, IU defeated No. 23 Southern Methodist University 1-0 to defeat its first ranked opponent since 2010.
“I think we thrive as the underdog,” said junior forward Maya Piper. “Kind of gives us extra motivation and we know that we’ve beaten ranked teams before, we know that we can compete.”
Rutgers offers a difficult challenge for the Hoosiers. The Scarlet Knights have 12 shutouts on the season and were able to blank two ranked teams last week in No. 13 Penn State and No. 12 Ohio State.
“They’ve got a bunch of athletic kids,” Berbary said. “I’m pretty confident with who we’ve got in the goal and the back line is playing well. We’re just going to have maintain and fight, we’re definitely going to have to match their physicality.’
It’s a defense that won’t be easy to score on especially because Rutgers has only given up a total five goals all season including a streak of allowing none until Big Ten play.
This game looks to be a defensive grind for both teams with it ultimately possibly coming down to a 1-0 decision or a double overtime match.
“Rutgers has a very good goalkeeper in Casey Murphy,” Berbary said. “I think we’re going to earn some set pieces and those are very important for us. As far as free kicks and corners, once we go in low and hard that’s what we’re going for to try to sneak a couple by her.”
Neither team has a go-to player on offense that they can give the ball to and strike fear through the opposing defense, but Piper leads both teams with seven goals on the season.
“It’s nice to have home field advantage,” Piper said. “I think we have to focus on our strengths because we aren’t intimated by any backs, we just play our own game and hope to walk out with a W.”
Luckily for the Hoosiers, they’ve been playing their best soccer of the season as of late. IU picked up four crucial points last weekend over Iowa and Nebraska to give the team momentum heading into the end of the season.
The last two games have put IU in position to really control their own destiny with Rutgers being the perfect team to come away with a signature win late in Big Ten play.
“I thought that we really played together,” sophomore midfielder Chandra Davidson said. “We know that we have to play a full 90 minutes. We’re determined to continue our winning streak, it’s now or never. We want to make it into the tournament.”
Mathematically speaking, IU can’t afford to lose on Saturday. Even just tying Rutgers might not be enough. The Hoosiers currently are on the outside looking in from 11th place and are four points out of claiming the final spot of eighth place.
“Our fate is in our own hands really,” Berbary said. “The focus has been Saturday’s game at 5 o’clock. You have to win that game and let the chips fall where they may. Our conference has been crazy enough this year that you can’t count on anybody whether you’re in 1st place or 14th place to win a game. We haven’t really looked at the numbers much except for the fact that we have to win and focus on ourselves.”
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