With the top eight Big Ten teams being separated by only six points halfway through the season, any given game could mean the difference between making the season-ending tournaments and having to watch it from home.
IU women’s soccer enters Saturday’s 6 p.m. game against Iowa at Bill Armstrong Stadium coming off a pair of wins that featured some of the most physical play all season.
The weather was cold and raining, players were colliding, and nearly every player spent time on the ground after contact.
With only the Iowa game to prepare for this week, IU Coach Amy Berbary made a change in her practice schedule.
“We took two days — Monday and Tuesday — off just to kind of get everybody reenergized again,” Berbary said. “It was helpful, I think, to just get the kids’ bodies back and just mentally take a break.”
After the days off to rest, junior midfielder Abby Smith is preparing for another weekend battle.
“I think we are doing a good job this week of recuperating from the past weekend,” she said.
Iowa enters the game coming off a 1-0 double overtime win against Michigan State.
The Hawkeyes enter the weekend only three points behind the Hoosiers in the conference standings.
A win Saturday would give them the edge in a head-to-head tie breaker if IU and Iowa ended the season with the same amount of points, just as they did last
Junior midfielder Bekawh White said she has not forgotten when that exact scenario last season kept the Hoosiers out of the final tournament spot when it was held in Bloomington.
“I think that is motivation,” White said. “It really makes us focus on each game. Last year was pretty bitter, too, not getting in when it was here.”
The Hoosiers offense has had spurts where they have struggled to score when given the opportunity off set pieces or in front of the net.
White said a number of players have been attending optional shooting drills an hour before practice to help capitalize on those scoring chances.
“We just need to keep training the same way because we’ve been creating good opportunities,” White said. “If we set ourselves up well, she’s not going to stop it.”
The past few games have been intense as the chances to score points have begun to dwindle down.
This weekend, Berbary is expecting more of the same.
“I think it’s going to be physical. I think it is going to be a transition game,” Berbary said. “It is going to be 100 miles an hour. The bottom line is who can be calm enough and execute in and around the box is going to be who comes away with a win.”
Follow reporter Sam Beishuizen on Twitter @sam_beishuizen.