IU women’s soccer will have to wait another day for its first Big Ten win under new head coach Erwin van Bennekom.
The Hoosiers could not keep up with Nebraska on Sunday, losing 2-0, to the Cornhuskers.
It was the second straight loss for the Hoosiers to open up conference play, but unlike Friday’s loss to No. 19 Iowa, the Hoosiers were slow out of the gate and found themselves behind early. Despite ultimately outshooting the Cornhuskers, the Hoosiers couldn’t get enough of their chances on net, failing to score for the second consecutive game as well.
“They pressed us pretty hard and smart,” van Bennekom said. “They’re a well-coached team, and I think we struggled with that. Their press started going higher, and we started getting a little less confident.”
Nebraska did not waste time grabbing the lead, scoring in the 13th minute thanks to a miscue from junior goalkeeper Bethany Kopel. The Hoosiers’ junior goalkeeper tried to dribble around in the goal box to find an open teammate, but Nebraska’s sophomore midfielder Dakota Chan took the ball off Kopel’s foot and tapped it into a wide open net.
Down 1-0, the turn of events took the wind out of IU’s sails on a very windy day at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
“The way we want to play is all based on confidence and being courageous,” van Bennekom said. “Once we conceded a goal, obviously self inflicted, I think we dropped our confidence and suddenly got out of our system. We stopped opening up, and players didn’t want to make mistakes.”
Nebraska continued to put the pressure on, forcing more bad decisions and opening up more opportunities for itself. However, the Hoosiers managed to keep the damage to a minimum, and at the half, the score remained 1-0 despite the Cornhuskers leading in shots, 7-2.
As the second half began, the Hoosiers once again turned up the intensity and in large part dominated play.
After a yellow card on IU defender Allison Jorden, the Hoosiers rattled off a sequence in front of the net, getting three shots off in the span of about a minute and a half, including one right on net by senior captain Chandra Davidson.
The Hoosiers were back on the attack again not ten minutes later when freshman midfielder Grace Saccone, who had just subbed in for the fifth time this year, led a couple offensive rushes for the Hoosiers. One of those led to a sequence of two shots for fellow freshman Avery Lockwood, who finished with a team high 4 shots on the afternoon.
“We had a whole different game plan," van Bennekom said. "We went very direct second half with the wind behind us."
Bringing the back line forward much like the Iowa game, the Hoosiers were able to sustain pressure and make the Cornhuskers work to keep the ball out of the net.
The Hoosiers pressure led to a break away chance for Nebraska that resulted in the game sealing goal, a strike from the corner of the penalty box by Nebraska forward Adriana Maldonado in the 81st minute.
IU managed a few more opportunities still after the goal, including a long shot from Jorden that hit the right post and caromed out of play.
The Hoosiers finished with nine shots in the half and 11 overall, but the lack of finishing proved to be their biggest downfall as they fell to a game under .500 on the season.
“Even late in the game at 2-0 if you take one or two of those it’s a whole different game,” van Bennekom said.
Ahead of their next game Friday at Michigan State, van Bennekom knows what IU must do better to finally crack the win column in the Big Ten conference.
“We struggled with their press on our buildup, and we couldn’t play out of it,” van Bennekom said. “We’ll take a big part of that blame, and we’ve just got to get better.”