Five times this season, the IU men’s soccer team has been held scoreless in the first half of play and come back to win.
It did not happen Saturday night, though, as the Hoosiers generated little offensive firepower and fell on the road to unranked Penn State 1-0.
The loss ended the No. 17 Hoosiers’ four-game unbeaten streak and drops their season record to 9-5-3. They are now 2-3 in the Big Ten.
IU coach Mike Freitag summed up his team’s play in one word: “disappointing.”
“I didn’t feel we had fight and hustle tonight, especially in the first half,” he said. “It is a reoccurring topic that we need to get over. Every game is going to be a battle, and tonight we didn’t rise to the occasion.”
With only three shots on goal in the 90 minutes of play, the Hoosiers mustered little production against the Nittany Lions’ defense. Penn State (5-9-3, 2-3) secured the board first, when their goal in the 26th minute put them up 1-0.
Off a free kick from just outside the box by Penn State junior midfielder Matheus Braga, IU senior goalkeeper Chay Cain stepped in to block the shot. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, the ball ended up at the feet of Nittany Lion junior forward Vincent Salvatico, who fired a shot into the net.
Playing without the lead at the start of the second half was not a new thing for the Hoosiers, as they came out of the locker room with a more aggressive mentality.
IU junior midfielder Eric Alexander took a hard shot on goal in the 57th minute, but Penn State freshman goalkeeper Warren Gross was able to get a hand on it. With eight seconds remaining, IU freshman forward Will Bruin had an clean look at goal, but his shot went wide of the net.
Not since 1991, the first year the Big Ten began playing men’s soccer, have the Hoosiers lost three conference games in a season.
“It’s just little mistakes that cost us,” Alexander said. “We weren’t moving the ball quick enough and it was just slow. We didn’t look like we normally do.”
For the second consecutive game, IU was without the services of senior midfielder and captain Brad Ring.
Cain said players must be ready to go at all times if an injury occurs.
“Obviously Brad is a big part of our team, and we want him out there if we can,” he said. “At the same time, we have the personnel that if Brad or somebody else is not playing, we should be able to step into those gaps. We had the team out there to do it.”
The Hoosiers conclude their regular season with a home match against No. 6 Northwestern (12-2-2, 3-2) at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
With the postseason quickly approaching, Cain said a win against the Wildcats would be monumental for team confidence.
“We need to get a little more momentum going before the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament,” he said. “We know it is going to be a tough game, but a game that we know we can win.”