It was a bittersweet moment for the IU women’s soccer team as it walked off the field for the final time this season Thursday night in Columbus, Ohio.
The Hoosiers lost to No. 13 Ohio State on the road, 2-1, after allowing both goals within the first seven minutes of play. IU finished the season with a 6-9-4 record and failed to finish in the top eight of the Big Ten Conference, leaving the Hoosiers out of the Big Ten Tournament picture.
In contrast, the Buckeyes clinched an outright Big Ten Regular Season title with the win.
Despite the loss, IU Coach Amy Berbary has remained positive with how the season played out.
“This 2017 team, I think I’d use 'resilience' to describe them,” Berbary said. “We fought. I thought the second half was one of our better performances of the year, but when you go down 2-0 to the Big Ten champions, you’re going to claw and scratch as much as you can.”
IU didn’t have anything to lose Thursday night. The Hoosiers weren’t expected to win, and the week before the game was primarily spent focusing on ending the season on a high note. Even though they lost, it was a valiant effort from the young Hoosiers.
It wasn’t pretty early on, however. Ohio State proved why it was the top team in the Big Ten with two early goals from senior forward Sammy Edwards that put the Buckeyes ahead. It would’ve been easy for the Hoosiers to roll over and give up. But they fought back, and a late score in the first half from junior forward Annelie Leitner gave the team a momentum swing.
“The first 10 minutes were so weird,” senior midfielder Kayla Smith said. “We were just kind of in a haze, and we didn’t know what happened giving up those two goals. We put in another good 70 minutes together, and we kept Ohio State on their heels and almost had a comeback to tie. As long as we didn’t give up, that’s all that mattered to me.”
IU came out swinging in the second half, earning a few corners and keeping its defensive shape against the high-powered Ohio State offense.
Even though IU played much better defensively in the second half, the two-goal lead was too much to overcome.
“We made a couple of adjustments in the midfield at halftime, and we asked our backs to give us a little bit more, to be more physical, try to step in and win balls,” Berbary said. “I thought that we did a really good job of that in containing them and putting a body on them in the second half.”
Freshman goalkeeper Bethany Kopel played well after giving up the early scores. She saved eight shots on the night for the Hoosiers.
The loss was the final IU game for Smith and senior midfielder Kylie Kirk.
“Losing to Rutgers was really emotional, and that kind of hit me that I wasn’t going to have a postseason, so super sad,” Smith said. “I guess it hasn’t truly hit me yet, it’ll probably hit me when I don’t see that email or that text saying, ‘hey guys, we’re starting up practice again,’ but I feel like just not being with this team any longer than this bus ride and the soccer aspect is going to hit me really hard.”
While offensive production was limited for the Hoosiers this season, they will return players who scored 22 of the 23 goals this season. Berbary is already looking forward to the challenge of next year.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Berbary said. “I think the junior class stepping up with Maya Piper, Abby Allen, Justine Lynn, Caroline Dreher — those players are going to be huge leaders for us. Not to mention our fifth-year seniors coming back with Annelie Leitner and Mykayla Brown. We’re going have a good season with an older group that definitely will look to, to hold players accountable to get better themselves."
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