For the first time in more than 15 months, the IU women’s soccer team will be back on the pitch for a match. The Hoosiers will play the Northwestern Wildcats at 7 p.m. Saturday in Evanston, Illinois.
The team’s last match, a 1-0 loss to Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey, was on Nov. 3, 2019, with the long wait prompted by the Big Ten postponing the typical fall season until the spring. For many players, this is the longest they’ve ever gone between matches.
“It’s super weird to think about, because since I was probably 8, this is the longest time I’ve gone without playing a game,” sophomore midfielder Avery Lockwood said. “It’s going to be a crazy concept to play someone other than my own teammates, since that’s what we’ve been doing for the last year.”
Saturday’s contest will mark the start of head coach Erwin van Bennekom’s second season in Bloomington, and he sees it as an opportunity to make the next step in player development.
“I think it’s hard to compare our 2019 season to this season, just because in 2019 we got a lot of non-conference games,” van Bennenkom said. “Half the season was Big Ten and half non-conference. Now, we’re just playing a conference schedule, which is as tough as it can get, especially with the schedule we have this season.”
The match was moved from the Wildcats’ typical outdoor grounds at Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium to the indoor Ryan Fieldhouse, a $270 million facility along the shores of Lake Michigan. With heavy snowfall and frigid temperatures in Bloomington moving IU’s practices indoors this week, the team is prepared for the change of scenery.
“We’ve been practicing inside here with the weather we’ve had,” said Lockwood. “The indoor facility here is not a full-sized soccer field, so we’ve been playing in a tighter space. I think moving to a big field will benefit us. If we can control the ball in the smaller field, I think we can thrive in the bigger space.”