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Men's soccer faces most important game of season against Wisconsin



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IU celebrates after senior defender Grant Lillard scores the first of IU's five goals against Santa Clara Sept. 30 at Bill Armstrong Stadium. IU will now begin the Big Ten Tournament Monday at 12 p.m. after a weather delay postponed the game from Sunday afternoon. Bobby Goddin Buy Photos

Coming off a shaky performance on the road against in-state rival Butler, No. 1 IU has two games left to close out the regular season.

The Hoosiers' next test will come on Senior Night against Big Ten foe Wisconsin, a match that will be played 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Bill Armstrong Stadium.

While it will be a time for celebration and admiration for IU’s seniors, once the first whistle blows, it will be all about business.

“It’s a really big game for us,” senior midfielder Jack Griffith said. “Senior Night is a great thing for the guys that have been here for four years, but ultimately we’re just trying to get three points and get our spot in the Big Ten Title.”

IU currently sits tied for second place in the Big Ten with Michigan State. The Hoosiers trail conference leaders Maryland by three points. 

With a game in hand on the Terrapins, the pressure will be on IU to win both of its last two games, while Maryland only has one conference match left in the season against Michigan.

“The mentality of the group has been great from the first guy to the last guy on the roster, everyone is really focused on the same end goal,” Griffith said. “From the preseason to now, we want to keep the same mentality going and the same focus.”

IU extended its shutout streak to 889 consecutive minutes following the 0-0 draw with Butler earlier this week. But Butler had its chances to score in the match. 

The Bulldogs nearly broke through IU’s defense through the counter attack, which almost led to a goal via Butler sophomore Brandon Guhl. IU Coach Todd Yeagley said he wants his team to be a little sharper against Wisconsin on Saturday night, especially passing-wise.

“We had the game in the sense of territory, but we didn’t pass the ball well, that’s as simple as it gets,” Yeagley said. “We needed to be sharper, and if we were, I think we could’ve gotten a half-dozen more good chances which could’ve given us some goals too.”

The attacking trio of junior Cory Thomas and freshmen Mason Toye and Griffin Dorsey were kept quiet against Butler, with Dorsey drawing double-teams every time he controlled the ball on the wing.

Dorsey was forced to pass it back into the middle of the pitch instead of running the sideline, which he usually likes to do. 

This limited the amount of crosses into the box from IU on the wings, something IU has thrived on this season.

Yeagley stressed the importance of looking back at the Butler tape in order for the team to learn from their mistakes, and he said they have spent plenty of time evaluating film.

“I thought we could’ve come out a little more aggressively,” Yeagley said. “Defensively, our challenges were good, but we could’ve been a clip higher, but our guys know good defending starts with our attack. If we were cleaner with the ball then our spacing and our thoughts will be better. We didn’t see what they were giving us fast enough, and that’s the great part of our sport. We can’t call timeout when we need to make adjustments on the fly.”

Wisconsin has a tendency to score a lot of goals during Big Ten play, the Badgers have 13 so far in conference play. But one of Wisconsin's weaknesses is its defense, which has allowed 11 goals in conference play. By comparison, IU has only allowed one goal in six Big Ten matches.

Griffith said he’s had a lot of great memories as a Hoosier, but he said his fondest memory is this seasons’ squad and their shutout streak, which has lasted for the past nine matches.

“So far, this scoreless streak has been the best, not giving up a goal in nine straight games is something that I definitely will remember for a long time,” Griffith said.

A loss Saturday would severely harm IU's chances of a Big Ten Regular Season Championship, placing even more importance on an already significant match. 

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