They’ve experienced the struggles and frustrations of three losing seasons and a program in transition through a change of head coach.
But they’ve also seen the highs of a 2013 season in which IU set a number of program records while advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
But after Friday’s 7 p.m. matchup against Michigan State, IU’s six seniors, Tori Keller, Kristin Leist, Abby Smith, Bekah White, Jordan Woolums and Rebecca Dreher, will hang their IU jerseys up for good.
“It’s probably going to be a pretty emotional game,” Keller said. “It’s hard to even fathom having played, like, a million games and practiced so many times. But I don’t know, I think I’m excited, but it’s bittersweet.”
The trio of Leist, White and Dreher all elected to come back to the program for a fifth season to compete this year.
Leist, who will be done with school after the semester, said she couldn’t turn down a chance to keep playing soccer.
“We have a pretty phenomenal senior class,” Berbary said. “Three of them coming back for their fifth year and stopping their life. I’d say arguably one of the smartest classes that has come through here and helped us set program ?records.”
The Hoosiers’ senior night will feature a Michigan State (8-8-1, 3-8-1) team that, like IU (6-11-1, 2-9-1), will also not be making a Big Ten Tournament ?appearance.
IU Coach Amy Berbary said it’s tough knowing the final whistle Friday will mark the end of the season after a disappointing Big Ten season but added that the focus all week has been ending the year by giving the seniors a win.
IU took Tuesday off to ensure players’ legs will be as fresh as possible for the final game.
Like IU’s game against Purdue, Berbary said one of the keys to the game will be keeping emotions in check among the seniors.
“Unfortunately, they know it’s over and this is our last game, so that’s probably going to help us and give us a little extra boost,” Berbary said. “We always talk about playing each game like it’s your last. Typically, you don’t always know that, but we’re hoping to come out strong Friday.”
Keller, a Grand Rapids, Mich., native, said there’s a bit of extra motivation for her to play well against the team from her home state.
Berbary described the Spartans as a good transition team that’s going to be hungry for a win in their last game of the season, as well. She expects whichever team handles itself better in the final third will walk away with a win.
“There’s no doubt it’s going to be a competitive game,” Keller said. “I have a special rivalry with them, so I’m always going to want to beat Michigan State above almost anybody.”
As the season comes to a close, Berbary said she hopes the team never has the feeling of the season ending in October again.
The goal now is to end the year with a second-consecutive win and give the seniors something positive to leave the program with.
“It’s the last chance to be out there with the program, so I’m just going to enjoy every minute of it,” Leist said. “It’s going to be the last time I’m out under the lights, so I’m going to enjoy every minute I can with these girls.”