IU Coach Amy Berbary isn’t afraid to sub.
NCAA soccer rules don’t limit the number of substitutions a team can use, unlike many other professional soccer leagues. That means coaches have the option of mixing and matching lineups by calling in substitutions whenever there is a dead ball.
Berbary has taken advantage of that rule.
She has created a competitive environment where the lineup is always changing. There’s no finite set of starters and backups, but rather a roster where every player is expected to be ready to take the field at any time.
Senior midfielder Lisa Nouanesengsy said she believes the constant competition has helped her and the other typical starters.
“We are all competing with another, and that’s great for us,” Nouanesengsy said. “Just because you start Sunday’s game doesn’t mean you’re going to start Friday’s.”
Senior Lara Ross thinks the ever-changing lineup and opportunities to earn or lose playing time means starters are constantly being tested by the players on the bench.
“Nobody gets comfortable with their positions,” Ross said. “We know that it’s a constant fight, and its good competition.”
She said competition within the team has been healthy.
“We want to push each other,” Ross said. “We want success for our whole team, and that only comes from pushing each other.”
Berbary is looking for results. The team score comes ahead of the individual names in the record books.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from or what kind of scholarship money that you’re on,” Berbary said. “My job is solely based on winning, and that’s what I do. That’s what I’m here for.”
Berbary has given her players a number of opportunities to perform in games and to earn playing time throughout the year. That has resulted in younger players such as sophomores Kayleigh Steigerwalt and Jessie Bujouves emerging as offensive weapons.
Bujouves said she was just happy to be in the starting lineup when she made her debut against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 6. She soon found herself being named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after netting a pair of game-winning goals in her first two games as a starter.
“I was just grateful that I was able to start,” Bujouves said after the game. “It is great to be able to contribute to the team’s success.”
Steigerwalt has recorded three goals and four assists this season after not starting at the beginning of the year.
Junior Kate McCusker spent the opening games on the bench but now finds herself playing a large chunk of minutes, including most of the opening three Big Ten games.
Berbary said these players earned their way into the starting lineups during practice weeks and then performed in the games when it counted most.
In IU’s Big Ten opener against Minnesota, IU was struggling to get the ball in the net.
Berbary put in freshman midfielder Veronica Ellis in the 67th minute — she scored what proved to be the game-winning goal two minutes later.
Berbary said once the players have proven themselves in practice, they are expected to be used in the games.
“V (Ellis) came in as a freshman composed and within two minutes, scores a goal,” Berbary said. “That comes from training, and I’ve told them before that I’m not taking a chance on you in a game until I see it in training.”
Ross said everyone on the bench knows they could be used. If the player is on the bench, she could be on the field any given minute.
“They have to be ready at any time,” Ross said. “Anybody can come in at any time and make a difference, and we know that. That’s what we work for in practice, is everybody doing their job and making a difference.”
The early success has been a team effort throughout the entire roster.
The Hoosiers have seen a Big Ten leading 15 different players record a point this season — they are off to their best start in program history.
“It has been huge,” Berbary said. “These kids work their way into the lineup when they’ve proven themselves, and finally when they get on the big stage, they’ve been doing something good for us.”
The Hoosiers (8-2-1, 1-2-0) are in the beginning stages of Big Ten play and have dropped two games in a row.
Berbary said she will continue experimenting with her roster because she believes in doing whatever she needs to do with her lineups to get results.
“Obviously we have some kids that are more talented than others, but they still work just as hard and are as important to our roster,” Berbary said. “Having the 30 kids on our roster has really helped us in the long run. Having all these girls helps us win.”
Follow reporter Sam Beishuizen on Twitter @sam_beishuizen.
Women's soccer maximizes lineup with subs
IU Coach Amy Berbary isn’t afraid to sub.