With three wins in its last four games, IU women’s soccer finds itself in the thick of the Big Ten tournament race.
Just four games remain in the regular season, but for IU its two most important games are against Maryland and Rutgers this weekend. Just four points separate these teams from a playoff spot and a postseason at home.
Here are three things to know ahead of the penultimate weekend on IU’s schedule.
Lockwood stands above the rest.
Freshman midfielder Avery Lockwood got a mention in last week’s preview for being named to the Top Drawer Soccer’s team of the week.
She finds herself on the front pages of Top Drawer’s site again, when on Monday she was named one of Top Drawer Soccer’s Freshman Top 100, landing at No. 42.
Lockwood picked up her second assist of the year on Sunday as she set up fellow freshman midfielder Alaina Kalin for the game's lone goal.
Lockwood’s playmaking ability has been key for the Hoosiers this season, her four goals and two assists evidence of the offensive talent potential head coach Erwin van Bennekom has forecasted for the budding star.
Little separation, little time
As mentioned above, the Hoosiers, Terps and Scarlet Knights, as well as the Cornhuskers and Wildcats are all tightly bunched in the playoff picture, separated by just four points.
Rutgers stands on the firmest ground with 13 points, ahead of IU, Northwestern and Maryland by three points, or one win.
And Maryland, who IU will face on Friday, is currently on the outside looking in. However with nine points, a win over IU would catapult Maryland into a tournament spot temporarily, knocking IU out of the picture in the process.
A pair of wins for IU, conversely, would put them at 16 points and very much in line to secure its first tournament berth since 2016.
Kopel is key
The Hoosiers' success this season has been attributed to, above all, their defense. While the offense has scored 13 goals, defensively the Hoosiers have surrendered just 12, good for an average of 0.86 goals allowed per game.
IU has posted seven clean sheets this season, going 6-0-1 in the process. While a great deal of this success has been due to the Hoosiers “maintaining their defensive shape,” a lot of the credit goes to junior goalkeeper Bethany Kopel as well.
While Kopel has not had to make as many saves this year, 40 in 14 games, as compared to her freshman and sophomore seasons, 96 and 92 respectively, the saves have been extremely timely.
Two of her five saves in Sunday’s shutout came four minutes apart at the 77th and 81st minutes. And on the topic of shutouts, Kopel now has a career high with seven this year and now owns a school record 16 career shutouts.
Surrendering one goal over their last five games has allowed the Hoosiers to remain firmly in the postseason picture.