No. 10 IU men’s soccer’s return home could not have come at a better time. On the heels of its first Big Ten regular season loss in four years at the hands of Maryland, IU desperately needed to recoup momentum with a bounce back effort.
An in-state, mid-week match against the University of Evansville also could not have come at a better time as the Aces traveled to Bloomington riding a seven-match losing streak.
Not since 1992 had the Hoosiers dropped a match to the Aces, and Tuesday night proved no different as the Hoosiers topped them, 5-1, in impressive fashion.
A key focus for IU following its shutout loss to Maryland was to find a way to generate more offense. IU junior midfielder Spencer Glass did just that in the opening minute, slicing through Evansville’s defense and finding the back of the net in just 53 seconds.
“It was a great sequence,” IU head coach Todd Yeagley said. “Spencer’s club selection was great. He was really able to use his really efficient stroke.”
IU freshman forward Victor Bezerra and IU junior forward A.J. Palazzolo followed Glass’s lead shortly after netting goals of their own in the first half.
Bezerra’s goal, his third of the season, came in the ninth minute on the receiving end of some crafty dribbling by IU freshman forward Joshua Penn, who was credited with an assist. Penn continued his impressive night in the 29th minute, teaming up with IU senior defender Simon Waever to assist Palazzolo’s goal from point-blank range.
“I haven’t felt like we’ve had a game where we dominant like that” Bezerra said. “I felt that our conviction on the ball, how we were aggressive going forward, was better today than it has been.”
Evansville did little to show any resistance through the first 45 minutes and allowed the game to get away from it by halftime. A dominant first half saw the Hoosiers enter the locker room with a commanding 3-0 lead and an 11-3 shot advantage.
“To come out in the first half and score three goals like that, it breeds confidence for the rest of the game,” IU junior Thomas Warr said.
The Aces came into the second half with their backs against the wall and needing to play the role of aggressor, which was evident out of the break.
Evansville caught IU’s back line playing a bit too lackadaisical in the 63rd minute as a yellow card on IU sophomore defender Jack Maher resulted in a costly penalty kick for Evansville senior forward Jesse Stafford-Lacey. Stafford-Lacey would soon tuck his shot into the top right corner to cut IU’s deficit to just two goals.
“They were going to come out aggressive," Bezzera. "We knew they were going to come out that way. And we wanted to match that mindset.”
That would be the only offense the Aces would muster the rest of the night, with the Hoosiers regaining composure and halting any ideas of a comeback.
A pair of goals from Warr, his first of the season, and IU freshman midfielder Trey Kapsalis, the first of his career, capped off an eventual victory.
“We have a lot of guys on the team that work their butts off day in and day out,” Warr said. “But for him to get that time, for him to get on the spotlight a little bit, it means so much to him, and it means so much to our team.”
With just three regular season games remaining, and a 9-2-3 record in hand, IU will need to carry over its high level of play.
Whether the Hoosiers can do that remains to be seen. But for a team that has struggled to find a consistent offensive rhythm this season, Tuesday night was surely a good place to start.
“We just gotta make sure we come out and compete, and things will take care of itself,” Yeagley said.
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