Any win was going to feel good for the IU men’s soccer team.
But its 3-0 victory over Wisconsin on Friday, 445 days after it last took the field, felt especially sweet.
“There was definitely some nervous energy today,” IU head coach Todd Yeagley said. “I think a lot of that was being out a game in a year.”
Despite the layoff, the Hoosiers were in control for nearly all of its season opener. Sophomore forward Victor Bezerra starred in the first half, scoring two goals in rapid succession.
When the ball fell to Bezerra’s feet, he didn’t need to take much time to decide what to do with it. His first goal came after an initial shot was blocked before reaching the goal and fell to his feet. His second followed a cross where he ended up with the ball just outside the box.
The third goal came early in the second half after a cross reached senior Thomas Warr, who slotted the ball into the net.
“If I could say two guys that we could get goals from today that would really be good for the group and for them are Tom and Vic,” Yeagley said.
Bezerra had three shots on goal before being subbed off in the 57th minute.
The sophomore forward’s first two goals of the season put him at 10 for his career, passing senior Spencer Glass and moving him into first among active players at IU.
After the lead was set, the game became about experience and defense.
The second half was guided by a defense that refused to break and snuffed out nearly all of Wisconsin’s offensive chances.
Its best attack came in the 74th minute, but sophomore goalkeeper Roman Celentano made a save with his face from point-blank range to keep the clean sheet intact.
Yeagley said Wisconsin’s best chances came on the counterattack, so IU didn’t want to overextend itself and open the door for scoring opportunities, especially after Warr scored IU’s third goal.
Outside of Celentano’s save, none of Wisconsin’s three shots on goal created a challenge for the keeper. Most chances were swallowed up by the defense or stopped by challenges from IU’s defense.
The game provided plenty of chances for the Hoosiers’ youth to take the field. Freshman Joey Maher earned his first career start at centerback, freshman Lawson Redmon debuted at left wing and redshirt freshman Quinten Helmer picked up time at midfield.
Yeagley said several of the younger players were nervous before taking the field, even though players like Maher played back in the spring.
“It’s still different,” Yeagley said. “They know it’s real.”
Yeagley said even experienced players like junior Joe Schmidt looked more comfortable in the second half after working out nerves.
IU was more disciplined, fouling Wisconsin only 6 times compared to the Badgers’ 15. It created more chances, with two more shots on goal than Wisconsin’s three. Of course, IU scored more goals too.
Due to Bloomington’s snowy weather, the game was moved to Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana. The indoor facility created some unusual challenges, with several balls kicked off the ceiling and junior Nyk Sessock colliding with the wall.
Yeagley said he believed Sessock strained his leg and should be back by Tuesday’s game against Ohio State.
Yeagley said the turf played differently than the practice facility at Mellencamp Pavilion, so it took time for the Hoosiers to adjust.
“Our guys, with some of the initial passes that we were missing, I don’t see those in Mellencamp or when we play at home,” Yeagley said.
Despite a controlling opener to a year full of extraneous circumstances, Yeagley still saw the 3-0 victory as an underperformance.
"Once we get all that out of the system you'll see us perform a bit better."