The 2019 campaign for IU women’s soccer begins with perhaps the biggest test of the season.
They will do so with the help of a different coaching staff, including a new head coach and a healthy dose of fresh faces on the pitch Thursday from Chapel Hill, North Carolina against No. 2 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
“I think we’ve got a lot of young talent,” IU Coach Erwin van Bennekom said. “Some players that we didn’t really know because they were recruited by the old staff, and some players that we brought in late. I think that combination is going to be a huge part of what we do in the future. This year obviously they’re young... but age has nothing to do with performance.”
The Hoosier’s youth movement will have big shoes to fill, with eight seniors from last year’s 8-8-2 squad all graduated, including their three leading goal scorers: Abby Allen with eight, Mykayla Brown with six, Annelie Leitner four.
One player that has jumped out early to van Bennekom is freshman midfielder Alaina Kalin.
“Alaina Kalin has really stepped up. "She’s a freshman that doesn’t really play like a freshman,” van Bennekom said.
Another key for the Hoosiers will be the leadership of the elder statesmen of the squad, senior defender Allison Jorden and newly minted captain and midfielder senior Chandra Davidson.
“Channy is a different level,” van Bennekom said. “She’s worked with some special players in the past, and Channy has that it-factor that we can’t teach. Allison Jorden is a rock, her mentality and aerial quality is insane.”
The Hoosiers will also rely on freshman midfielder Avery Lockwood and transfers Oliwia Wos and Megan Wampler in the backline.
Davidson expects the Hoosiers to set a more defensive tone out of the gate, after last year scoring 33 goals, the most in a season for IU since 2013.
“We have a really hard-working team. All great quality players and just people who really want to win.”
Last season, UNC went undefeated in Atlantic Coastal Conference play before losing to Florida State University in the National Championship game. The Tar Heels had three players named to the Mac Hermann Trophy watch list including First-Team All-American junior forward Alessia Russo.
“We want to get something out of it result-wise, but whatever happens, we’re going to get better from it,” van Bennekom said. “It doesn’t just say we’re focusing on the process here, were focusing on obviously trying to get a result.”
Despite ushering in a new era, IU looks forward to the challenge that UNC will present to open the 2019 regular season.
“It’s definitely going to be a great game,” Davidson said. “UNC is an amazing team, and we’re definitely going to put up a fight. We’ve developed so much, and it’s an honor to play in an environment like that.”