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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's soccer

Hoosiers bring in former players to coach new team

Mike Freitag

When IU men’s soccer coach and former defender Mike Freitag came to Bloomington for his freshman year in 1976, it was nearly impossible to find a soccer ball on the shelves of any sporting goods store in town.

IU soccer was only three years old.

Ukrainian-born assistant coach Aleksey Korol had only lived in the United States three years when he first stepped foot on campus in 1996. The renowned forward was selected to the Dinamo Kiev Youth Academy at the age of 12, yet committed to the team with no guarantee of a starting spot.

Assistant coach Phil Presser, a Ft. Wayne native, said he simply wanted to play midfield for the best school in the country when he arrived on the collegiate scene in 1999. That school just happened to be in his home state.

Since exploring other coaching and professional careers elsewhere, Freitag, Presser and Korol now make up the IU men’s soccer coaching staff.  

“Indiana soccer is in our blood,” Freitag said. “I would like to have coaches who have been through it, who know what Indiana soccer is all about. It’s ingrained in them – how we go about things the right way.”  

Freitag enters his sixth season as head coach and has 24 seasons of total experience under his belt as an IU men’s soccer staff member in addition to more than two years as an assistant coach to the U.S. Under-17 National Team.

Such a rich Hoosier bloodline is why these men chose to return to their alma mater – this time with whistles and clipboards in hand to carry on a legacy.  

“It’s a lot of pressure to maintain the seven stars,” Presser said. “I think being here as a player and talking to alumni, everybody wants to be on a winning team. You can feel that. As a (former) player, I know what it takes to pass that on.”

IU has seven national championships to its name. Seven stars arranged in a semicircle above the IU symbol on most men’s soccer apparel represent the seven titles.

Freitag was involved in five, while Korol and Presser each had a hand in two.  

While a decorated tradition is attractive to any coach, it is not the main reason IU’s staff said it chose to return.

“For me, it’s like a family,” Korol said. “After I left school, I played some professional soccer. Wherever I went, there was never a close bond like we have at Indiana.”

Korol played a little more than two seasons in the MLS for Dallas and Chicago before an injury prematurely ended his playing career.

IU hired him as an assistant in February.

“It’s our fraternity of brothers,” Presser said. “You stay involved with everyone who’s played here, and you play for something that’s bigger than yourself.”

Presser enters his fourth season as an IU assistant coach, adding to a coaching resume that also includes a year at the University of Illinois-Chicago under former IU player and assistant coach John Trask, as well as a season as a student assistant for the Hoosiers NCAA Championship team in 2003.  

The fraternity that is IU soccer was established in 1973 by legendary IU men’s soccer coach Jerry Yeagly.

 The program has flourished on high expectations that Freitag said are one of the most intriguing aspects of the job.

“The pressure is not only to maintain the seven stars, but to add an eighth, ninth and tenth,” Freitag said. “That’s the pressure we are under. Everyone expects IU soccer to win. We all know that and accept it. We’re ready to take on that challenge.”

This season, IU plays one of the most testing schedules in the country, facing nine top-25 schools and a competitive Big Ten Conference.

The Hoosiers are No. 7 in the NSCAA preseason poll.  

Presser said that now more than ever it is key to have a staff whose IU roots run deep, especially when led by Freitag’s experience.

“When players can look at a coach that has so much history of this program and see that in his eyes, and think about the way things are being taught,” Presser said, “they can learn and appreciate back then.”

“This staff has a good chemistry,” Freitag added. “We know when to be serious and when to have fun. We have a good time and a lot of laughs.”

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