Throughout the season, IU Coach Amy Berbary has stressed the importance of her team learning how to start games better. Berbary has emphasized the need for IU to begin matches as the aggressor and to be the team on the offensive right from the first whistle.
However, being slow out of the gate helped contribute to the end of IU’s season Sunday afternoon.
Against the No. 11 Minnesota in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament, IU conceded the opening goal inside the first three minutes of the match. The Hoosiers, 7-9-4 overall and 4-5-3 in conference, were unable to overcome this early deficit in a 3-1 loss in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“We knew that Minnesota would probably score today,” Berbary said. “Unfortunately it happened in the first three minutes.”
Minnesota sophomore midfielder Molly Fielder slipped a pass to junior forward Julianna Gernes that Gernes lifted over IU freshman goalkeeper Sarah L’Hommedieu and into the net.
The Hoosiers responded well after going behind, though. IU produced one of its better chances of the match in the eighth minute. Sophomore forward Maya Piper was able to settle a bouncing ball from an IU corner kick and produce a shot, although it went wide of net.
While Minnesota, now 14-3-3 overall and 7-1-3 in conference, had the majority of possession in the first half, the IU backline held strong and only allowed two shots on target. However, both of these shots resulted in goals for the Gophers, as senior midfielder Josee Stiever scored her eighth goal of the season in the 37th minute.
“We had a couple of chances, and we were able to hang in there the best we could,” Berbary said. “We just needed to finish a bit better.”
After entering halftime down 2-0, IU started the second half on the attack. Freshman midfielder Allison Jorden forced Minnesota senior goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs into her first save of the match in the 49th minute with a header off a corner kick. Less than a minute later, freshman midfielder Chandra Davidson fired the first of her two shots in the match over the net.
The pressure from the Hoosiers continued as the second half progressed. Junior midfielder Kayla Smith nearly scored a goal in the 68th minute courtesy of a scorching shot from outside the box that rose just above the crossbar.
IU’s reward finally came with nine minutes remaining in regulation when two of IU’s most potent offensive players connected. Freshman defender Meghan Scott served a corner kick into the Golden Gopher penalty box where it was redirected into the net by sophomore forward Mykayla Brown.
The goal was Brown’s eighth of the season and restored some hope to both the IU players and traveling fans.
That hope was short-lived, though. Minnesota restored its two-goal lead three minutes later, with junior forward Sydney Squires’ scoring on a rebound after L’Hommedieu saved an initial shot from Stiever.
“We took a risk, we changed the formation and threw some numbers forward, but with that risk you take offensively, you leave yourself open,” Berbary said. “We gave it a go. It didn’t matter if we lost 2-1 or 6-0, with our season on the brink of ending.”
Regardless of the outcome Sunday, the season can already be categorized as a success for the Hoosiers. Simply making the Big Ten Tournament after being picked to finish 12th in the conference in the Big Ten Women’s Soccer Preseason Poll highlights just how much IU has achieved in Berbary’s fourth year as head coach.
“You’re always in game mode, going from the next one to the next one,” Berbary said. “I think it’s going to take me a while to look back and be able to understand what a year this was for this team.”
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