The crowd at Bill Armstrong Stadium was rocking. Tempers were flaring on the field and IU men’s soccer completed a 5-4 comeback victory over the University of Louisville in the Hoosiers’ final exhibition of the season Saturday.
The matchup didn’t feel like an exhibition in any sense of the word.
“It had the feel of a regular season game,” Yeagley said. “That felt as real as it could get.”
The imitation of a regular season game is important for the team to experience, Yeagley said after the match, and this game offered a lot of learning opportunities before its regular-season opener against the University of Notre Dame on Friday.
After giving up just six goals over their 16-game schedule last season, Yeagley was not overly concerned about the Hoosiers giving up four against the Cardinals in the long run considering the Hoosiers’ stinginess. He said a couple of the goals could have been handled better by the defense, but also pointed to the talent of Louisville’s roster, saying it had two or three players as talented as any other opponent.
“A couple were great goals, so sometimes you have to tip your hat,” Yeagley said about Louisville’s successes.
The Hoosiers gave up three of their opponent’s four goals in the first half, the final of which came off a penalty kick from senior forward Pedro Fonseca four minutes before the halftime break. IU’s chance at a comeback seemed bleak for all of a few moments until freshman midfielder Tommy Mihalic put a shot in the back of the net less than 30 seconds after Fonseca to cut the Louisville lead in half.
“Sometimes you’ve gotta get hit a little bit,” Yeagley said. “And not that this group wasn’t focused, but they also didn’t give up.”
The Hoosiers went into halftime down 3-2, and Yeagley said he could tell his team was upset by the position they were in, but motivated to come out with a victory. He told them they would find a way to win the game, and he didn’t need to say much besides a few suggestions.
“I could sense the determination at the half, they were fired up … I liked the way they came into the locker room ready to go, so I didn’t have to say a ton,” Yeagley said.
Mihalic, who was one of three scorers for IU on Saturday, is part of what Yeagley called the team’s “new juice” that will be key moving forward for the team. He also pointed to freshman forward Samuel Sarver, who drew the penalty kick which would lead to IU’s equalizer in the 54th minute, and his deceptive pace, as well the team’s improving core of junior forwards Ryan Wittenbrink, Maouloune Goumballe and Herbert Endeley.
“In the beginning, every team has a different personality to it,” Yeagley said. “This team has a different kind of swag to the attack.”
With the team’s revamped attack, Yeagley hopes junior forward Victor Bezerra, the MAC Hermann Trophy runner-up and IU’s leading scorer last year, will get some easy scoring chances this season.
Against Louisville, Bezerra netted a hat trick off two penalty kicks and a free kick just outside the box.
Yeagley was also excited to have the home crowd back in the stands, and hopes to see an even bigger crowd at IU’s home-opener against Butler University on Aug. 31.
“Every time they scored we were picked back up and really felt the crowd,” Yeagley said. ”I thought tonight the Hoosier Army and the crowd really helped us propel.”
After an 87th minute goal from sophomore defender Joey Maher that put the Hoosiers up 5-4, tempers flared between the two teams, leading to a scuffle. Yeagley chalked the emotions up to both teams being competitive and having high expectations this season, but he still stepped in to get the two teams separated.
The win capped off a 2-0-1 preseason performance for IU. Four Hoosiers tallied nine total goals over the last two games with Louisville and Wright State University after a 0-0 draw with DePaul University. Bezerra finished the preseason with five goals.