The IU women’s soccer team is off to its best start in school history after improving to 6-0-1 with a 2-1 win against Central Michigan on Sunday.
With little more than four minutes remaining in the game, sophomore forward Kayleigh Steigerwalt scored a game-winning goal from outside the 18-yard box.
With time winding down and the Hoosier offense struggling to convert on shots, Steigerwalt said she and her team changed their offensive strategy.
“On the sidelines, the four of us were getting ready for the last 10 minutes,” Steigerwalt said. “We just said, ‘Alright this is what we need to do differently.’”
The team decided to attack the net from long range. IU had struggled to convert on crosses in front of the net.
Steigerwalt picked up her dribble from 40 yards out, stepped up a bit and took her shot.
“I didn’t know I was that far out, to be honest,” she said. “I was just dribbling and I found space in front of the goal.”
IU Coach Amy Berbary praised the shot selection, saying she believes Steigerwalt needed to take more shots from farther out.
“It was such a good finish,” Berbary said. “She is such a good finisher. She does that all the time in practice. It’s funny when we get to games we try to push her saying, ‘Please shoot.’”
The goal was one of the few chances IU was able to convert on the day.
Despite outshooting Central Michigan 21-4, IU had a hard time finding the back of the net.
The Hoosiers found themselves trailing for only the second time all season in the fourth minute when Central Michigan midfielder Emily Cooksey beat senior goalie Shannon Flower for the early goal.
Junior forward Abby Smith was pleased with the way her team responded to the early struggles.
“This team is really good as a whole about not getting down on ourselves,” Smith said. “We just focused on getting the first goal and we went from there.”
Smith would end up adding an equalizer off a Tori Keller assist in the 33rd minute. Just minutes later, IU had another opportunity to score off a penalty kick, but senior forward Rebecca Candler couldn’t convert.
Berbary said she believes the struggles came from the Hoosier defense struggling early.
“It was our defending,” Berbary said. “That’s something we pride ourselves on is our team defending, and we were just not very good.”
Freshman defender Ari Kowalski stepped in when the defense struggled. She made a pair of diving stops in front of the net to help hold the Chippewas to only one goal.
Berbary said she was impressed with Kowalski’s ability to make use of her limited minutes.
“Ari was absolutely fantastic,” Berbary said. “She has really brought it in the last two weeks of training. When you get a chance and make an impact like she did, that’s all you can ask for.”
Although the Hoosiers were tested and had to step up late, Steigerwalt said she was relieved after the game to have gotten the win.
“They were great,” Steigerwalt said. “They had good movement, they passed to each other well. That goal was so last minute, but it was such a relief.”
Follow reporter Sam Beishuizen on Twitter @Sam_Beishuizen.