Whirling. Tumbling. Soaring. Dropping.
The IU men’s soccer team has been on a wild ride, and only halfway through the regular season, it can’t get off yet.
After Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime win over Evansville and last weekend’s 2-1 loss to UC-Santa Barbara, IU is looking to add another win to its inconsistent results.
Junior defender Ofori Sarkodie said defensive lapses have contributed to the Hoosiers’ close victories and defeats.
“We feel like we’ve been giving other teams a bit of an opportunity there to get back into the game,” Sarkodie said. “We’ve had opportunities to take the lead and control the pace of the game.”
The Hoosiers’ first Big Ten game of the season against Wisconsin also ended in a 3-2 overtime decision. Their second Big Ten game won’t prove to be any less of a challenge than the first.
The visiting Michigan Wolverines defeated No.8 Notre Dame 3-1 Wednesday and will come to Bloomington looking for their first Big Ten win – they tied Wisconsin 1-1 on Monday.
Against the Hoosiers, both goals Wisconsin scored came after restarts, and Evansville hit one off a corner kick. As such, Wednesday’s practice concentrated on fixing defensive errors.
Sophomore midfielder Rich Balchan emphasized the team’s need to focus during all 90 – or more – minutes.
“Every game we’ve been having a couple of mental breakdowns,” Balchan said. “We’re just getting beat by some of the little things, the things you take for granted or don’t pay attention to.”
Despite their recent struggles, senior midfielder Brad Ring said the team has been playing well and was hit by misfortune during Tuesday’s match.
Having already played nine games, Ring said the Hoosiers’ chemistry should start to sync soon.
“Halfway through the season, it’s time to start clicking,” Ring said. “It started Tuesday against Evansville, and we’ll keep it going through the Big Ten.”
Even now, IU coach Mike Freitag said it is difficult to see which are the elite teams in the country.
Having competed against both ranked and unranked schools, the Hoosiers’ record is a poor indicator of their skill and talent, he said.
“I think we’ve been exposed to some of our weaknesses because of the schedule we’ve played,” Freitag said. “Hopefully ... we’re ready for the next half (of the season).”
While academic midterms arrive in a couple of weeks for students, the Hoosiers handed out their on-field grades – they weren’t stellar. Freitag and Ring awarded the team a B-minus, while Balchan thought the Hoosiers merited a C.
“We’ve been playing at an ‘A’ potential but haven’t been consistent enough to deserve that ‘A,’” Sarkodie said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction, and we’re getting stronger and stronger as the season goes on.”
As they prepare for the Wolverines, the team is anxious to transfer its optimism to the pitch.
“We have to have the mentality – the attitude – to come out and match their physicality, their intensity,” Sarkodie said. “The main thing is to focus on our game, not their game.”