On a field that already bears the head coach’s last name, a new era begins Sunday.
After years on the sidelines learning from his father’s head coaching techniques, new IU coach Todd Yeagley will take the field for the first time as the leader of one of the nation’s premier soccer programs.
But as Yeagley prepares for the noon matchup with Louisville, he is more focused on his team than the opponent.
“We really just want to keep building,” Yeagley said. “This is obviously a time to experiment for the fall, try different combinations, but we’re treating these games from the standpoint and approach as we would a fall game. Performance is our main objective, although results are important every time we take the field. But our main objective is to make sure performance and what we’re trying to get across as a team is accomplished.”
As with most firsts, Yeagley said he will feel some jitters. But he said he is too honored to be overly worried about them.
“The milestone-type emotions for the first and the last and all that always comes into play at times, but when it comes game day, for me, my focus is really just on performance,” Yeagley said. “Any time you step on that field and you’re coaching this program it’s special, and I’m sure that will hit me.”
IU will play two teams this spring — Louisville and Akron — that it lost to in the regular
season by a combined score of 5-0.
Junior midfielder Cameron Jordan said the games’ exhibition status is no reason to diminish a rivalry’s intensity.
“They beat us last fall season, and that’s when the rivalry started,” Jordan said. “We beat them, and then come spring season they beat us, and then come in the regular season again and then we get our little revenge in the tournament. So it’s been a battle back and forth.”
With the Zips and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish awaiting the Hoosiers in April, Jordan said his team has an uphill climb this spring.
“With three big rivalry games, there’s no game to take lightly,” Jordan said.
In preparation for the new season, along with commonplace offseason conditioning such as weight lifting and running sprints, the Hoosiers added yoga to their regimen.
“It’s a lot harder than you would think,” Jordan said. “It’s kind of strenuous but at the same time very relaxing. It was teaching us breathing motions and to just kind of let everything go and focus on one thing. It made you do some things you don’t think you’re going to be able to do.”
Relaxation will be important for the marquee match of the spring against Mexico’s Youth National Team in Bloomington on April 27.
Junior midfielder Daniel Kelly is not new to playing Mexico. He has played against the team twice while at IU and three times while he was a part of the U.S. Youth National Team. He said he hopes the Hoosiers will be comfortable before that time comes.
“Luckily, it’s our last game of the semester, so hopefully we’ll get the kinks out and we’ll be playing well together,” Kelly said. “Hopefully the guys aren’t nervous. You’re always going to have some butterflies but it’s just taking what the coaches give you and taking that to the field and applying it.”
This weekend is the coaching staff’s first chance to see the Hoosiers apply what they have learned.
“We’re not going to be the finished product come Sunday,” Yeagley said. “But certainly we want to see improvements in areas that we have really been stressing.”