Coming off a dominant performance that saw No. 8 IU defeat Northwestern for its first conference victory on the road this season, IU travels again to face a tough Penn State team.
With both teams battling for position atop the Big Ten standings, Sunday afternoon’s matchup carries heavy implications and could serve as an early preview for a potential Big Ten title match later in the season.
Ahead of the Hoosiers’ clash with the Nittany Lions, here are three things to know:
Penn State’s aggressive play could be problematic.
As a team, Penn State is generating 13 shots per game while recording a shot on goal nearly 43% of the time. The Nittany Lions’ aggressive offensive approach has been a staple of their successful season thus far.
However, this isn’t the first time IU has had to deal with an overly assertive, offensive-minded team this season.
Led by sophomore defender Jack Maher and senior defender Simon Waever, the Hoosiers’ back line is going to have its hands full against the Nittany Lions and will have to find a way to limit the quality shot opportunities.
Penn State, having accumulated 25 offsides this season, also likes to push the ball down field at all times and catch opposing defenses playing too relaxed. With this all-or-nothing approach, it forces opposing defenses to be active at all times.
With IU also preferring a high-tempo style of offense, it can’t afford to be careless and turn the ball over.
Ball security will be crucial in suppressing each team’s offensive tendencies.
Who starts in the net for the Hoosiers?
Following the departure of former IU goalkeeper Trey Muse at the end of last season, IU head coach Todd Yeagley has stuck with senior Sean Caulfield as the starting goalkeeper through the first eight games of the season.
That all changed Tuesday night against Northwestern as IU freshman Roman Celentano got the starting nod in place of Caulfield and earned his first career victory.
Celentano was stellar in his debut, recording two saves on nine shots while allowing only one goal.
This puts IU’s depth chart in a state of uncertainty as each goalkeeper presents a different set of skills. Caulfield’s lanky frame allows him to play more passively and block more shots, whereas Celentano shines most when he’s able to play up and get to balls before opposing teams can shoot.
Whomever Yeagley decides to go with could ultimately be a glimpse into who the top guy in net is for IU the rest of the way.
It will be a battle of the underclassmen.
Both IU and Penn State enter this weekend’s match with a largely inexperienced roster that has been asked to produce and mature almost immediately.
While freshmen forwards Joshua Penn and Herbert Endeley anchor IU’s front line, Penn State freshman forward Liam Butts and freshman midfielder Andrew Privett make up two of Penn State’s primary playmakers.
For the season, the Nittany Lions’ underclassmen account for 46% of the total points collected. Similarly, the Hoosiers’ freshman and sophomore classes make up 65% of their total points this season.
Two of the top recruiting classes in Big Ten should make for an explosive, fast-paced match, but inexperience and mental mistakes could ultimately prove to be the deciding factor.
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