First, it was freshman forward Herbert Endeley’s moment. Next, it was sophomore defender Jack Maher’s turn. Then, it was junior forward Ian Black’s chance to seal the deal.
Within a seven-day span, IU men’s soccer played four matches, but to head coach Todd Yeagley, it has felt more like a month’s worth of matches.
“Coach Yeagley sums it up pretty well,” freshman forward Victor Bezerra said. “He says the team has matured in the last two games as if we’ve matured in a month.”
With all three of IU’s victories to begin the season coming from overtime golden goals, it’s no wonder why Yeagley’s sentiments are as ambitious as they are.
After back-to-back overtime winners in the Hoosiers’ first weekend of action, there was a palpable relief at Bill Armstrong Stadium, but an inability to close out games in regulation left the team feeling largely unsatisfied going into weekend two.
“We learned a lot about ourselves the first two games,” Black said. “But there’s definitely some weaknesses,and we’ve been trying to clean them up heading into the weekend.”
The tweaks made ahead of matchups with the University of Denver and Seattle University didn’t go according to plan, however, as IU once again needed late-game heroics to remain unbeaten.
While Black’s golden goal in the 97th minute helped the Hoosiers hold off Denver for its third-straight win, a sound defensive effort couldn’t offset a stagnant offense in a scoreless draw to Seattle just two days later.
Early season rust combined with an IU team as young as any during the Yeagley era has been a major catalyst for IU’s offensive woes.
Having trailed at some point in all three of the Hoosiers’ wins this year before mounting comebacks, the team has been forced to dig deep and find unforeseen levels of fight and determination.
“Whatever it takes,” junior midfielder Spencer Glass said. “We’ve prepared for those mental things that may not always be going our way.”
If the streak of overtime games continues, however, there’s no shortage of players who the Hoosiers can turn to in key moments.
Similar to Endeley and Maher already, freshman midfielder Aidan Morris and IU freshman forward Joshua Penn, two of IU’s prized recruits, have come extremely close to netting late-game goals of their own.
With adversity comes experience, and for IU’s newcomers to get exposure to these high-pressure situations so early in their careers, it will likely pay dividends later down the road.
“They just have confidence,” Glass said. “We’ve got a good group of young guys, and we’ve just been supporting them.”
That confidence will only continue to grow as the season advances, and with four overtime matches already in the books, there may not be another team in the nation who has experienced more perseverance than IU up to this point.
It’s only a matter of time before Yeagley gets IU’s offense back to its old dominant ways. But in the meanwhile, Hoosier fans will just have to continue biting their nails and holding their breath as long as the overtime periods keep coming.
“Definitely never count us out in a game,” Glass said. “If we can put our nose to the grindstone and come back from that, we’re never worried.”
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