After suffering losses in consecutive games for the first time this season, the IU women’s soccer team will travel to West Lafayette, Indiana, this weekend to add another chapter to its storied rivalry with Purdue.
“The rivalry is crazy,” IU Coach Amy Berbary said. “Their environment at Purdue makes the game really intense with the fans right over the benches. We just have to make sure we put together a really good performance and match their excitement.”
Before the Hoosiers dropped two straight matches last weekend, Berbary’s squad was on a six-game unbeaten streak. It was IU's longest unbeaten stretch without a loss since the beginning of the 2013 season.
Additionally, the team started conference play at 2-0-0 for the first time since 2007.
The streak came crashing down last week when IU blew a 3-1 lead against Nebraska, losing to the Cornhuskers in overtime. Three days later, the Hoosiers posted a two-goal loss to Iowa to fall to 2-2-0 in conference play.
But, during the Iowa game, senior forward Abby Allen was sent off with a red card in the 74th minute after getting tied up with Iowa’s goalkeeper. Allen was sent off, and IU finished out the game with 10 players.
Along with missing out on the final 16 minutes of action against the Hawkeyes, the senior will not be able to play against Purdue this weekend, likely her last chance to battle with the Boilermakers.
As the Hoosiers’ leading point-scorer, Allen’s attacking instincts will be missed by her teammates and coaching staff. Berbary feels sorry for her senior, but is excited to see how her forwards will fill in for Allen off the bench.
“I’m not sure who will take Abby’s spot in the starting lineup, but I’m pretty confident in whoever it’ll be,” Berbary said. “We’re still just trying to determine who’s going to step up, but we’re very deep with this team, and we have a lot of options.”
One of those options is sophomore midfielder Melanie Forbes. The second-year Canadian may stand at 5-foot-3-inches, but Forbes has been explosive as a substitute this year.
The midfielder played in all 19 games as a freshman, failing to record a point, but she's been turning heads with her performances this season.
Coming off the bench in 11 games, Forbes has three goals and two assists to her name. In four of the team’s last six games, Forbes has come on as a substitute and notched two points. If she gets the nod to IU' starting lineup this Saturday, it would be her first career start.
“It’s the next game, so it’s the most important since it’s the only one we’re focusing on right now," Forbes said. “I’ll need to focus on the little things and keeping my head up to read the play so I can do my best.”
At 5-3-3, Purdue’s record is not far off from IU’s. What’s more telling of the Boilermakers is their schedule. They have lost to a top-25 team, drawn with two and even defeated a ranked opponent. All of these games occurred in nonconference play.
“They’ve come real close in some games, and I think they’re better than their record reflects,” Berbary said. “We’re really just trying to focus on ourselves this week. It doesn’t matter how good the other team is because if we don’t perform at our highest level, we won’t be in the game anyways.”
Berbary credits the Boilermakers for having "dynamic forwards" and "backs that are very good," but said her team is always up to the challenge.
A win for IU would be its first against Purdue since 2014.