With an upset, a penalty kick victory and a last-minute win behind them, the No. 17 Hoosiers have experienced a wide variety of matches.
On a three-game winning streak, IU (9-4-2, 2-2-0) is looking to extend its success when Kentucky visits at 7:30 p.m. today at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
Riding their own wave, the Wildcats are 9-4-2 and 5-1-0 in Conference USA play and come to Bloomington having won its last four games.
IU coach Mike Freitag emphasized the significance of his team’s streak heading into the last stretch.
“You don’t ever want to lose that momentum,” Freitag said. “You want to continue it. That’s what we’re going to do.”
With three games left in the season, the Hoosiers have little time to prepare for the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. Freitag said he is confident in IU’s talent and skill level, but was less sure about their capacity to come out prepared for their opponent.
“They’ve got confidence in their ability to play the game,” Freitag said. “Where they’ve had to keep up and continue to strive is (their ability to) be ready and be focused.”
Sophomore forward Andy Adlard, who scored game-winning shots against No. 21 Louisville and Ohio State, respectively, said despite the Hoosiers’ mistakes in the past few weeks, they now know how to close out a victory in any situation.
“The good teams always find a way to get the result,” Adlard said. “We’ve learned how to do that much better in the past few games, in the last couple weeks.”
Despite the recent triumphs, junior midfielder Eric Alexander said the team has to play for a full game, not just the second half.
“We have to stay focused,” Alexander said. “We have to come out with a strong first half as well as a strong second half, and play a complete 90 minutes.”
Freitag said any issues with focus rests on his players.
“If it’s me that has to (motivate them), then we got problems,” Freitag said. “It’s the individual players. They know what’s at stake, how they need to get themselves ready. They will (be ready) because they’ve learned from a few mistakes this season.”
Adlard said the team’s ability to come back from sluggish starts will be a key factor.
“Every team’s going to come out slow once in a while,” Adlard said. “It’s how you deal with it and how quick we can recover from it.”
Last year, IU defeated Kentucky 4-0 in Lexington. Freitag said the Wildcats would relish the opportunity to avenge the loss.
“Whatever worked last year was last year,” Freitag said. “That’s not the same Kentucky team. Their coach, Ian Collins, is a fiery Englishman who will have them pumped up to the max to battle against us.”
With three conference foes in the top 25 – No. 6 Northwestern, No. 18 Michigan and No. 25 Michigan State – the Big Ten Tournament offers the usual stiff competition. Adlard admitted thinking about the tournament, but said for now the team’s focus is on Kentucky.
“Obviously it sits in the back of your mind,” Adlard said. “Right now we have to get the result (Wednesday night).”