Before Indiana opened their annual Cream and Crimson scrimmage Friday at the IU Field Hockey complex, the senior captains gathered the team for a huddle.
Coming off a 6-13 season in which IU failed to provide consistent goal-scoring or defense, the seniors were looking for a spark to make 2018 a more successful season.
“We’re definitely bringing a lot of energy and we talk about being that spark in the play," freshman Hailey Couch said. "That is one of the things the captains recognized me for in the pregame is that you have to bring the spark, so I want to continue that through the season. Having a strong mindset and a lot of energy out there on the field is making a difference because we don’t want to settle for anything less.”
After a 4-0 win over Saint Louis on Tuesday, the senior Hoosiers were eager to keep the energy going. All eyes turned to freshman Hailey Couch.
Couch scored Tuesday and followed that up again with a 29th minute goal Friday.
If IU Coach Amanda Janney Misselhorn is looking for an offensive spark throughout the year, perhaps she can look no further than her most recent recruiting class.
Along with Couch’s two preseason goals, freshmen Peyton Becker and Megan Mahlandt -- who both scored twice -- both found the net for the Hoosiers.
Junior Kelsey Giese said she hasn’t always been accustomed to such impressive play out of newcomers.
“They’re fast, speedy," Giese said. "It’s nice because when I’m playing back, we have girls that can turn it on and add some speed, which in the previous years is something we kind of struggled with. It’s great to see them use their speed and they all have really good stick skills. It’s also great to see them score goals because now we know they are like a huge part of this team, they’re not just freshmen.”
While Janney Misselhorn brings in new freshmen who are already making an impact, the Hoosiers return loads of veteran leadership in the midfield as well.
Along with Giese, IU brings back senior Ellie Hempt and juniors Ciara Girouard and Andi Jackson. Those four have already made strides in their leadership on the field and have sured up the midfield compared to a season ago.
"We have great senior leadership with Kelsey and Andi stepping up,” Janney Misselhorn said. “I think Andi’s really stepped up and she’s taking that leadership role in the centremid spot.”
Giese could have a chance to have the finest season of the four.
On Tuesday, the junior netted two goals in the first half. Friday, she nearly matched that, however, obstruction and various penalties called back goals.
While moving back in the formation, Giese hasn’t lost her sense of ambition as a natural forward and expects to keep contributing on the offensive front.
“My team, everyone is building each other up," Giese said. "Even playing in the backfield, when I see opportunities to go, I’m going to go because I do have that forward mindset. It’s nice having players behind me encouraging me to go to the circle, knowing they have my back behind me.”
Along with Giese, Janney Misselhorn has seen a trend so far in the preseason that she enjoys. The Hoosiers have been finding the net often so far, something she looks for them to continue.
“We’re scoring more goals, and that’s something we have to do," Janney Misselhorn said. "In the spring we played great but struggled to score as many goals we wanted to. I think our forwards are producing more. I think our centremids are doing a really good job with the maturity of Andi, Rylee and Ciara. They’re doing better as they get older, and I think you’re going to see better passing in your midfield.”
While the offense continues to grow stronger by the day, Janney Misselhorn often turns her eye to a battle that’s been brewing. After the graduation of former goalie Katie Johnson, freshman Sachi Ananias and redshirt freshman Shelby Querry have been splitting time in a goalie battle that’s yet to been settled.
Both goalies have had runs with the first teams and their particular strengths have made for a tough decision for Janney Misselhorn.
“Their reflexes are great," Janney Misselhorn said. "It’s a really strong goalie battle and that’s exactly what we want. We have two young, eager goalkeepers and they both have different strengths. It’s been a great preseason so far to see them both playing to their strengths.”
As the regular season gets set to be underway next Friday, the morale of the team is growing by the day. Led by Giese and Girouard, the Hoosiers have successfully paired two veterans with a handful of young freshmen producers, creating a team that has helped Couch reach a new level of confidence heading into the new season.
“I think a lot helps from my teammates as well," Couch said. "They’re always challenging me and helping me. I think confidence level is high going into the season and I’m excited to see what it holds."
The Hoosiers finish off their preseason schedule tomorrow with an in-state battle against Ball State.
IU will then kick off the regular season against Louisville at 3:00 p.m. Aug. 24 in Bloomington.