The bench players stood in their black warm-ups, some wearing red beanies, waiting for the game to end and for the celebration to begin.
The Hoosiers (7-4-2) finally lived up to past legends and current expectations as they defeated No. 9 Notre Dame 3-1 on Thursday.
Their first home victory since a 3-2 win against Big Ten foe Wisconsin on Sept. 21 and first upset of the year, Thursday’s match marked a turning point in the season.
Brushing off an away defeat to Michigan State last week, the Hoosiers entered the match ready to start a winning streak. In a team meeting this week after practice, the players and coaches discussed their strengths and weaknesses.
“It’s a game that shows the players have a feeling what’s it like to have to play a 90 minute game,” said IU coach Mike Freitag. “It’s a feeling we’ve had in other games, but now we can’t forget it.”
One strength of the Hoosiers, depth, was forced into action in the game’s opening minutes.
Sophomore defender Rich Balchan had his nose broken in a tussle in the sixth minute and left the game, Freitag said. Freshman Tommy Meyer took his place for the remaining minutes.
In the 24th minute junior defender Kevin Alston rifled the ball from 25 yards out into the right corner for his second goal of the season.
“It was a rush,” Alston said. “I didn’t really expect it. It felt great.”
Three minutes later, senior forward Kevin Noschang hit the ball into the bottom left corner.
Up 2-0, the Hoosiers let in a Notre Dame goal as junior midfielder Michael Thomas put it in the middle of the net in the 38th minute.
Only ahead 2-1, the Hoosiers found another scoring opportunity. Sophomore forward Neil Wilmarth crossed the ball over to sophomore midfielder Andy Adlard, who recorded his third goal of the season in the 42nd minute.
IU’s defense was another strong point in the game, as the Fighting Irish had seven corner kicks, but did not score from any set pieces. The Hoosiers also contained Bright Dike, Notre Dame’s leading scorer with nine goals this season.
“We were shifting over at the right times and really communicating,” Alston said. “It starts in the back with communication, and you’re the eyes behind everybody. If the back is communicating, I think you will see a good effort all round.”
After surprise losses to Michigan State, Michigan and UC-Santa Barbara, the Hoosiers – who began the pre-season No. 7 – might finally realize the potential they’ve been promising all season.
“It’s weird to be on an IU soccer team that’s underrated,” Noschang said. “We were the underdog and that’s never been the case especially at home. We just wanted to show the country what we’re capable of.”
Wilmarth crossed to Adlard in the 42nd minute. Adlard snapped it in the bottom right corner and sealed the game for the Hoosiers. Noschang said each goal boosted the team’s desire to score more.
“It is contagious,” Noschang said. “You get that first one, and everybody gets the adrenaline going. You ride the wave.”
In previous games, the Hoosiers typically out-shot their opponents, but failed to out-score them. IU and Notre Dame had 15 and 14 shots, respectively. The Hoosiers hadn’t scored three goals since Wisconsin.
“Our mental aspect was ‘it starts now,’” Noschang said. “This either makes or breaks our season.”