Time is running out on the IU women’s soccer 2018 campaign.
With consecutive losses last weekend to Northwestern and Illinois, IU fell to 3-6-0 in Big Ten play, which ranks 11th in the conference. If the Hoosiers want any chance of their season extending past Sunday, they’ll need to beat Penn State and Maryland.
“Our backs are against the wall," IU Coach Amy Berbary said. "We’ve taken a couple of bad breaks, but we’re not hanging our head on that. It’s going to take all 26 players and coaches to be all in, giving it everything we’ve got.”
Five of IU’s seven losses have been by one-goal, with three being overtime finishes. The team has a fair share of missed opportunities that have come back to haunt them, but it is too late to worry about those.
IU will play its final game at Bill Armstrong Stadium on Thursday when they play an 11-5-0 Penn State team.
The Nittany Lions come in riding a five-game winning streak, but a majority of their wins have come at home.
“It’s huge playing at home with the crowd on our side,” Berbary said. “It makes us comfortable in our own environment because it’s hard to win on the road. I think it’s a tiny bit of an advantage, but we’re going to have to put together a good 90-minute performance.”
The Hoosiers have been impressive at home this season, going 5-1-1 so far. Their home offense has averaged 2.57 goals per game, compared to their 1.63 average on the road.
Penn State will likely challenge IU’s attack as they allow 0.83 goals per game on the road this year. With solid defenders and a fairly consistent offense, the Nittany Lions have been able to go 4-2-0 on the road this season.
Junior defender Meghan Scott has started in more than 50 games for IU and said she is anxious to get out on the field Thursday night against Penn State.
“Taking on a team like Penn State for our last home game is going to be a cool experience,” Scott said. “This week we’re focusing on working hard and leaving everything out there in practice. We all know how much potential this team has, so we’re really playing to our strengths right now.”
IU's final matchup of the regular season is a road contest against Maryland. The Terrapins are just 4-8-5 overall and 2-5-2 in conference play, but they’ve earned crucial wins against Iowa and Northwestern. The Wildcats were ranked 14th in the country when Maryland upset them with a 2-1 win.
While IU has played in nine one-goal games this season, Maryland has been involved in eight. The Terrapins have played to a draw on five occasions, all of which were against teams that currently hold records above .500.
Maryland’s four-win season is not very telling of how challenging they will be as an opponent.
Berbary knows the Hoosiers need to win in order to extend their season, and she was pretty clear about what will need to go right for that to happen.
“We need to take advantage of our opportunities in the box,” Berbary said. “Soccer games are won and lost in an 18-by-44 yard box, and unfortunately we’ve been on the wrong end of that a couple of times this year. Being relentless in the box is going to be huge for us on both ends of the pitch.”