IU men’s soccer began its season walking away with a 3-2 overtime win against Notre Dame in the season opener. But despite the win, the Hoosiers encountered multiple setbacks throughout the night with a slow offensive start and some defensive misplays.
“Our team grew into the game,” IU head coach Todd Yeagley said. “It certainly was not our best performance on a lot of levels but I was obviously really proud that we found a way.”
IU appeared caught off guard by Notre Dame’s offensive press from the beginning of the game, leaving the defense scrambling. The first goal came for Notre Dame in the 10th minute from senior Jack Lynn on a rebounded ball after a block from junior goalie Roman Celentano.
Play centered in the midfield for the Hoosiers during much of the first half as they struggled to drive through the Fighting Irish defense.
Yeagley said there was a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of freshmen forwards Tommy Mihalic and Samuel Sarver and it took time for them to get adjusted to the game.
“I think there was a lot of nerves and apprehension in the first 30 minutes,” he said.
However, in the 33rd minute, Mihalic was able to get through the Notre Dame defense to tie the game and record his first college career goal.
Afterwards, Notre Dame continued to dominate the first half, anticipating IU’s offensive tactics and suppressing many opportunities to move down the field. A flustered defense led to the notable shot differential of 10-4 in Notre Dame’s favor going into halftime.
The Fighting Irish recorded 10 shots and five shots on goal in the first half, but only managed to get one in the net thanks to saves from Celentano. The Hoosiers had four shots, including one shot on goal, with Mihalic putting up three himself.
The Hoosiers also struggled with offensive charges as star junior forward Victor Bezerra was injured early in the game. Bezerra, last year’s MAC Hermann runner-up, was one of the Hoosiers’ most reliable strikers in 2020 and was expected to continue that leadership this season. He was fouled five minutes into the game and played the rest of the half, but was not in the starting XI going into the second half.
Bezerra reentered in the 56th minute with a knee brace but left two minutes later after reaggravating the injury. He didn’t return for the rest of the game.
The Fighting Irish regained the lead in the second half after a scramble and misplay in the penalty area led to panic amongst the Hoosier defense. However, the offense had adjusted going into the second half, allowing an opening for Sarver to draw a fortunate handball from the Fighting Irish.
Mihalic stepped up to take the penalty, and while his first shot was blocked by sophomore goalie Bryan Dowd, he got control of the rebound to boot in the equalizer during the 87th minute.
“Probing late in the second half, we felt like a goal was coming,” Yeagley said. “Obviously earning ourselves a penalty, great job following that. I thought the last 20 was pretty good.”
Play ran into overtime tied 2-2, but it didn’t take long for the Hoosiers to seize another opportunity. Junior midfielder Ben Yeagley rifled a shot past Dowd in the 92nd minute, barely into the overtime period.
“The momentum certainly switched in overtime to us,” Yeagley said. “I’m obviously really proud of Ben. That was an unbelievable strike. A lot of joy in that moment on a lot of levels.”
Yeagley recognized that while the win is an important one, the team has to improve their overall performance. IU ended the game outshot 16 to 10 with only one corner kick compared to Notre Dame’s eight. However, at the end of the day, Yeagley was pleased with the win.
“Those are good wins,” he said. “You just can’t, week-in and week-out, perform like that and put yourself in those spots, but a great building moment for our team, and it’s a really happy locker room."