No. 2 IU men’s soccer will take on the University of Notre Dame in its season-opener at 7 p.m. on Friday at Alumni Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. The Hoosiers are coming off a 2-0-1 record in their three-match preseason exhibition schedule, including a 5-4 comeback victory against the University of Louisville.
IU and Notre Dame settled for a 1-1 draw when the teams last met in 2019, but the Hoosiers held a three-game winning streak against the Fighting Irish before that matchup dating back to 2017. IU leads the all-time series with a 31-10-3 record against the in-state rival.
At a press conference Wednesday, IU head coach Todd Yeagley said Notre Dame is always well-organized and well-coached. He also said he has a lot of respect for the program and they don’t generally overcomplicate the game.
“It’s a great rivalry, it’s a very respectful rivalry between the two programs,” Yeagley said.
Yeagley said nonconference challenges like this one are critical for the team’s rhythm and postseason resume. He said going on the road and getting tested early is a good thing, and Notre Dame offers that challenge.
Senior midfielder Joe Schmidt, a captain for this year’s team, said even though IU will be on the road, he hopes the Hoosiers will have some supporters in the crowd because it’s an in-state rivalry.
“We’re definitely excited for the crowd,” junior forward Maouloune Goumballe added. “We definitely don’t want to get caught up too much in that. We just want to control what we can control.”
Schmidt’s ability to understand what the team needs has made him an extension of the coaching staff when he’s on the field, Yeagley said. Schmidt started all 16 games for IU and had one goal and four assists last season.
Yeagley also said Goumballe, who started in 12 of IU’s 16 matches last season, has grown into his role with IU. Goumballe scored two goals and assisted on two more for the Hoosiers last season.
IU’s biggest lineup question heading into Notre Dame is when All-American senior defender Spencer Glass will take the field. Glass, who is utilizing his extra year granted by the NCAA because of COVID-19, suffered a season-ending broken leg before the team’s regular-season finale last year. Yeagley said Glass’ availability is day-to-day with a shoulder injury.
Yeagley said he wants Glass to get through training before returning to the field, but his maturity and understanding of the game will help him quickly assimilate back into the lineup.
“We need Spencer to make our team the best it can be, so we can’t be too overeager to throw him in when we have options,” Yeagley said. “We have good options, and we want to make sure we can keep him through the season.”
While Yeagley has plenty of players on his back line to fill in for his star defender, he also has a revitalized group of attackers at his disposal, which includes freshmen forward Samuel Sarver and midfielder Tommy Mihalic. Mihalic, who was named to Top Draw Soccer’s Preseason Freshman Best XI Team, scored a goal and had a team-best two assists in IU’s preseason exhibitions.
Yeagley said he hopes his young talent will get the chance to play early on in the season, but he may keep a tighter rotation against Notre Dame depending on how the team is performing. He said the team won’t have to deal with a quick turnaround with its next game coming against Butler University on Aug. 31.
IU’s matchup Friday will come just 102 days after its loss in the College Cup final against Marshall University, but Yeagley said this season doesn’t feel like an extension of the last because of new additions to the team. He said his players are ready to go, and their focus is on winning the ninth national championship in program history.
“I have my own personal goals, but at the end of the day the team goals are really all I care about,” Schmidt said. “So winning the two Big Ten titles and obviously the big one at the end.”