IU women’s soccer wraps up a three game road trip Thursday evening at Illinois. The Hoosiers are coming off a double overtime draw at Michigan in what was their best performance in Big Ten play to date.
IU head coach Erwin van Bennekom knows that IU will not win big in its conference matchups, but right now the Hoosiers are struggling to do any winning. Against an Illinois squad that, like Michigan, received votes in the most recent Coaches Poll, the Hoosiers cannot afford to waste good opportunities on either side of the ball.
Here are three keys to Thursday night's match between the Hoosiers and the Fighting Illini.
Capitalize on momentum
IU’s draw with Michigan continued a trend of strong defense. The team allowed no goals on 22 Michigan shots, culminating in the first clean slate of Big Ten play for junior goalkeeper Bethany Kopel and company.
The Hoosiers have managed to keep pace on offense, serving up plenty of offensive opportunities, though no goals to show for it.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Illinois sat at 7-1 on the season, but lost both its weekend matchups with Iowa and Nebraska by a combined score of 4-1. The offensive drought comes after the Illini had scored two or more goals in seven of their first eight games.
With the teams trending in opposite directions, this could be an opportunity for the Hoosiers to steal a win from a Big Ten opponent with early season success.
Wake the offense up
IU’s last goal came over two weeks ago against Kentucky.
Include the rest of that contest to the three Big Ten matches the Hoosiers have played so far, it equates to 363 minutes and 52 seconds without a goal.
Van Bennekom has acknowledged that IU is not going to beat its opponents by wide margins, instead the Hoosiers' best bet will be to win games 1-0. However, he’s also acknowledged that the finishing of his team has been lacking.
Expect upperclassmen like Forbes and senior midfielder Chandra Davidson as well as freshman midfielder Avery Lockwood to have the best opportunities to break the Hoosiers' scoring drought.
Get home safely
After their game at Illinois, the Hoosiers return home for their next three matches.
Playing at home always provides an added spark, but if IU couples its return home with a win over a team in the sights of the Coaches Poll, it could prove a turning point in the Hoosiers' fortunes.
It’s a tall task, but sometimes it only takes one.