The Hoosiers had three main goals coming into the 2017 season. But after settling for a draw last Sunday at Michigan State, only two of those goals can now be achieved.
IU was not able to capture a share of the Big Ten Regular Season title. There are still two goals remaining — a Big Ten Tournament title and a National Championship. The journey to the former starts Monday, 12 p.m. at Bill Armstrong Stadium. It’s a chance for the Hoosiers to prove to the Big Ten that they are the superior team in the conference.
From now on, the games are win or go home. The first of those games starts with a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
“Mentality has been good this week,” IU Coach Todd Yeagley said. “They know it’s tournament time now. It did hurt on the way home knowing that we were really close in the Big Ten Championship. That’s only extra motivation for the group.”
The Big Ten Tournament has been kind to the Hoosiers in the past. IU last won the tournament in 2013.
However, this year's tournament offers IU a chance at redemption after the way last year's tournament ended. The Hoosiers lost to the Wisconsin Badgers in penalty kicks in the semifinals of the 2016 tournament.
Because this IU team is such a new team, a lot of last year has been pushed aside at many different points this season. The 2017 freshman class, which saw three players earn conference awards Friday, brings a new mindset to Bloomington this season.
Freshman forward Mason Toye said the more experienced players have been talking to the younger players about what to look forward to.
“They’ve just said it’s a whole different intensity and a little bit of a different mindset going into games,” Toye said. “There’s obviously going to be a little bit more nerves because there’s a lot more on the line.”
When the Hoosiers take to the pitch Sunday, they will be going up against a Penn State Nittany Lions team that they beat 1-0 on the road in early October. In six of the last eight matches dating back to 2011 between IU and Penn State, there has been just one combined goal scored.
IU dominated the match, at least in terms of shots, outshooting the Nittany Lions, 24-6. Yet, they had just one goal to show for it. Yeagley said games like the previous matchup happen and that they’ve been working on finishing all year long.
“It’s not lack of training or focus, we just have to be sharp in those key times and feel as though we may not get 10 more (chances),” Yeagley said. “A part of that game, we were getting quite a bit of the run and the guys felt like ‘well, this isn’t crucial, we’ll get another.’ You can’t let that come into your thoughts.”
IU may not have played its best brand of soccer in its last two matches, but the Hoosiers are squared in on the same mentality they’ve had all season.
“I feel like we’ve had a pretty good mindset that’s prepared us for this postseason,” Toye said. “We’re just going to take it as every game we need to win. We need to go undefeated the rest of the season, so we’re just going to have the same mentality we’ve had all year, which is that we expect to win.”
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