After losing 2-1 to unranked UC-Santa Barbara, the No. 20 Hoosiers traveled to Evansville on Tuesday to prove they remain of the NCAA’s elite teams.
A 3-2 overtime win showed the team, though struggling, hasn’t gone away. IU coach Mike Freitag said IU regrouped well after losing to the Gauchos.
“It shouldn’t have been close to that (score).” Freitag said. “We played very well from start to finish. Everyone played with the intensity, the composure, the fight we needed.”
Freshman forward Will Bruin scored in the 94th minute to put the game away for the Hoosiers. Bruin also had the first goal of the game in the 46th minute.
Sophomore midfielder Daniel Kelly scored six minutes later with an assist from senior midfielder John Mellencamp to put the team up 2-0.
But the Hoosiers’ defense betrayed them as they allowed two goals in eight minutes. Aces forward Mike Luttrull scored in the 65th minute to put Evansville within one. Eight minutes later, Purple Aces midfielder Reggie Edu tied the game up 2-2.
“It’s a good thing that sometimes that these things happen,” Freitag said. “You learn from them, and you don’t make them again. We’re growing up each day.”
Their second overtime victory this season – the Hoosiers defeated Wisconsin 3-2 in another overtime clincher on Sept. 21 – redeemed the team after a rough start. The victory improved IU’s record to 5-2-2.
After Saturday’s game, in which they recorded their first and only goal in the 88th minute, the Hoosiers came out firing.
While they tallied 10 shots in the first half, they were not able to put the ball in the net until the second half. The team finished with 23 shots to Evansville’s 12.
“We dominated the game,” Freitag said.
As the team got off the bus, Bruin said Evansville supporters were shouting at them. Their taunts provided extra motivation for a team looking to rebound.
“When the crowd is on our back,” Bruin said. “I love playing those games. It makes it so much more fun.”
Freitag said he was proud of his team, and its response to a harsh environment only strengthened his confidence in the Hoosiers.
“When you have a hostile, large crowd, you travel on the day of the game,” he said. “A lot of teams couldn’t handle that; this team can handle that. The bigger the game, the bigger the stage – they rise to the occasion.”