With the first win of the Erwin van Bennekom era in the books, the women’s soccer team now sets its sights on Friday’s matchup with the Murray State University Racers.
Both teams sit at 1-1-0 on the season, but for the Hoosiers, “winning ugly,” as van Bennekom described Sunday’s game against the University of Illinois-Chicago, will not be an option if this team hopes to pick up its second straight win.
While IU prepares itself for Friday’s game, a 4 p.m. eastern start from Murray State, here are three key factors to know about the Racers.
Class of their conference
Murray State finished last season with a record of 13-5-1 and, 7-3-0 in conference, winning their conference tournament and garnering an NCAA Tournament bid.
The fact that the Racers attained that much success in head coach Matt Lodge’s first year on the job makes Murray State’s consistent success stand out even more. The Ohio Valley Conference’s preseason poll predicted the Racers would win the conference for a fifth straight year, and Murray State will look to build on another winning season to grab a third straight NCAA Tournament berth.
Watch out for the Wat-Shot
IU men’s basketball fans are familiar with the legendary Christian Watford buzzer-beater to defeat the University of Kentucky back in 2011. However, IU will need to be wary of a different Watford on Friday.
Murray State senior forward Miyah Watford is the key cog in the Racers offense with three goals in just two games. She was named to the OVC Preseason Player to Watch list after a dominant junior campaign in which she led the team with 10 goals and led the entire conference in shots with 84.
Her 10 goals were also tied for second in the conference, and her performance overall was enough to land her a spot on the 2018 All-OVC First Team.
Although it shouldn’t be all that surprising given Watford's accolades, Murray State plays an offensive-minded game. In each of the team's first two contests, it cracked double digit shots and had five goals on 13 shots on goal.
Before assuming the head coaching role, Lodge was an assistant for four years with the Racers. According to the team’s website, he’s been crucial in the development of their offense, creating a scheme that over his four years as an assistant averaged about 1.58 goals per game.
However, in each of their first two games the Racers have allowed 22 shots. While the team was able to pitch a shutout against Samford University on Sunday, it coughed up a 3-1 lead in their season opener and lost in double overtime to Xavier University 4-3.
That little discrepancy could open the door for an IU upset, but for now all the Hoosiers can do is wait for Friday.