Coming into 2017, if there was one thing to know about IU, it was about its defense.
With All-American senior Grant Lillard along with juniors Timmy Mehl and Andrew Gutman returning, the IU backline had a chance to be special. After 689 straight minutes without allowing a goal, they are now in the record books. And it probably couldn’t be done without freshman goalkeeper Trey Muse, either.
After 90 more minutes without allowing a goal, the Hoosiers knocked off the No. 21 Kentucky Wildcats, 2-0, and posted a program record seventh-straight clean sheet Wednesday at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
“Amongst this program, it’s hard to put yourself in the record book,” IU Coach Todd Yeagley said. “It’s cool for this team to be able to do that. Whenever a future team is able to clip this number, they’re going to reference the 2017 team. Hopefully I’ll be around to say ‘that was a heck of a team.’ That’s putting your mark on it.”
It was in the 51st minute against the Michigan Wolverines that IU gave up a goal. Since then, there haven’t been any goals. There also haven’t been many chances. IU Coach Todd Yeagley has previously said that he doesn’t necessarily look at goals given up, but more so at chances his team allows.
Against Kentucky, the Wildcats put a lot of pressure on IU. At the end of the first half and into the second half, Kentucky was making IU work defensively. That doesn’t happen often. Yet, the Hoosiers were up to the challenge. Yeagley said his team takes a lot of pride in posting shutouts. Now when any IU team looks back at clean sheets, the 2017 team will be at the top.
“It’s something we strive for,” Muse said. “It doesn’t necessarily define us as a team or as a defense. We come to every game looking for shutouts, but more importantly to win the games. I don’t think we’re settling for seven.”
Throughout the season, Muse hasn't been called into action much. He does a lot to organize the defense, but hasn’t had to make many big saves. That changed Wednesday. With the pressure Kentucky was putting on, Muse had to make a big reaction save in the second half and a diving save right at the end of the first half.
In baseball, they say the final three outs are the hardest to get. For IU to get the record, the last 90 minutes may have been the toughest.
“Setting records is always in the back of our minds, but we just try to get shutouts and win games,” Mehl said. “It ends up we keep getting clean sheets and W’s which is what we want.”
With IU’s history as good as it is, it makes this record almost more impressive. IU teams have gone six games without allowing a goal. They’ve gone five games without allowing a goal, but never seven.
In a season in which they hold the top ranking in college soccer and nearly everything has been going their way, you start to wonder when they allow another goal.
Ohio State, you’re next.
“I take a lot of pride in it. I know our team does,” Yeagley said. “I’m just really proud that they go about their defensive duties with such pride.”
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