It has been a while since the final games of the Big Ten regular season mattered to IU.
In both 2014 and 2015, the Hoosiers were eliminated from reaching the Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament prior to the final matches of regular season play. However, this is not the case this season.
IU, 7-7-3 overall with a 4-3-2 conference record, is eighth, the final spot for the conference tournament, in the Big Ten standings. With 14 points gained in conference play, IU leads Ohio State by two points and Illinois by four points in the race for eighth place with two matches remaining for each team.
These factors only increase the importance of IU’s match against the Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday night. Not only will IU be looking to solidify its spot in the Big Ten postseason, but it will also be playing for the Golden Boot, a trophy IU has won in three of the last four seasons.
“If we can get the boot back, our seniors will have had it for three of their four years, so that’s important for those guys,” IU Coach Amy Berbary said. “But there’s a bigger picture. Three more points would get us that much closer to securing a spot in the postseason and getting us another game.”
Berbary and the current group of IU players have never lost a match at Folk Field in West Lafayette, Indiana, and scored wins against Purdue in 2013 and 2014 while also going 2-0 in last season’s Boilermaker Challenge Cup at Purdue.
Saturday’s match will only have Big Ten tournament ramifications for the Hoosiers because the Boilermakers, 4-11 overall and 2-7 in the Big Ten, have already been eliminated from reaching the postseason. After winning its initial conference game at Illinois, Purdue dropped six consecutive conference matches to fall into the bottom part of the Big Ten table.
Fortunes have improved for Purdue of late, though, after it recorded a 1-0 home win over Maryland on Oct. 13. While Purdue may already be eliminated, Berbary said she still expects a tough test to come from the Boilermakers.
“It’s a cool environment that Purdue has. Their fans are right on top of you,” Berbary said. “We just love to play there, but it will be a very emotional game. We just have to make sure the mental side of our game is on as well.”
Scoring has been an issue for Purdue this season. The Boilermakers have scored only 12 goals in 15 games. When goals are generated by the Boilermaker offense, though, they usually come from junior midfielder Andrea Petrina or senior forward Hannah Leinert.
Petrina and Leinert have each recorded two goals and three assists and will be looking to add to their tallies against IU.
An IU victory and a draw or loss by Ohio State against Michigan on Saturday would confirm IU’s spot in the Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament. The Hoosiers have earned the right to control their postseason destiny as a result of their recent form, as the Hoosiers have taken points from five of the last six matches, and a current four-match unbeaten run.
However, Berbary points to one match in particular as a turning point for the team.
“I really do think the turning point for us was the 3-2 victory over Wisconsin. We were able to find a way to get it done and we’ve gone on a nice little run at the right time,” Berbary said. “When you’ve got 27 kids and a coaching staff of three that believe, anything can happen.”
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