IU women’s soccer came up short against the University of Memphis 1-0 Sunday afternoon in Memphis, Tennessee. The Hoosiers posted a 2-0-1 record through their first three matches.
IU had kept all of its previous opponents off the scoresheet, but had a much more demanding test to pass in Memphis to keep that streak.
Prior to Sunday’s match, the Tigers scored 13 goals in three games to begin the season. Memphis defeated Southeast Missouri State University 4-0 in its opener, and followed it up by running rampant against the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in an eight-goal shutout.
While those two opponents aren’t exactly household names, Memphis also earned an impressive point in a 1-1 draw against the University of Mississippi, which was ranked No. 23 in the United Soccer Coaches poll going into the matchup.
Memphis forced the issue to start the match, looking to continue its offensive explosion to begin the year. The Tigers earned two quick corners in the opening 10 minutes, but the Hoosiers were able to clear the ball out of their penalty area without any real discomfort.
From there, IU eased into the match and took control of the tempo. Rather than inviting constant pressure from Memphis, IU fought for a stronger foothold in the midfield and found gaps in the Memphis defense to get the ball to its forwards.
Sophomore forward Gabi Rennie earned her first start for the Hoosiers this season and made several threatening runs behind the Memphis defense during her time on the pitch. IU head coach Erwin van Bennekom praised her pace and ability to frustrate the defenders, which gives the offense a different dynamic.
The Hoosiers had most of their chances in the first half, with freshman midfielder Kelly Monaco accounting for all three shots on goal for IU in the period, the best one coming in the 26th minute. Sophomore forward Jen Blitchok squared a ball for Monaco at the top of the penalty area, but Memphis senior goalkeeper Elizabeth Moberg came off her line for the save.
The positive signs were there for IU heading into halftime, but it was all for naught once the second half began. Memphis earned a free kick in the 49th minute, which resulted in freshman forward Aubrey Mister scoring her second goal of the season for the Tigers.
The ball was whipped from near midfield into the top of the penalty area, which Memphis senior defender Kimberly Smit met with her head and flicked past IU’s entire line of defense. Mister pounced on the opportunity, dashing forward completely unmarked and heading in the winning goal past freshman goalkeeper Jamie Gerstenberg.
The goal marked the end of IU’s 338-minute shutout streak to begin the season.
“There’s no reason that the ball should be going past everyone and in from a central free kick,” van Bennekom said. “It was a mistake, and we gave away an easy goal.”
For the remainder of the second half, IU struggled passing the ball out of its own half and escaping Memphis’ high press. As a result of IU trying to chase the ball and find an equalizer, the match became heated.
Yellow card cautions were given to Memphis sophomore midfielder Lara Kazandjian and IU freshman defender Camille Hamm within minutes of each other, and the match ended with three Memphis bookings to IU’s one. Senior defender Madeline Carlson was forced to exit the match for IU after she collided with a Memphis player attempting to head the ball in the 70th minute, but was able to walk off on her own power.
The Hoosiers pushed up the pitch in large numbers in the final minutes of the match, but couldn’t connect for a goal and ultimately left Billy J. Murphy Athletic Complex empty-handed for the first time. Nonetheless, IU had the edge in shots on goal 4-3 and corners 3-2.
The defeat highlighted IU’s offensive struggles, which have mostly been masked by how well the defense has performed. The Hoosiers haven’t scored in either of their road matches this season, now making it two out of four in which they’ve been kept off the scoresheet. In each of their two victories, they’ve only put one in the back of the net.
“I thought it was a fairly even game and that it could’ve gone the other way, but in the end we weren’t sophisticated enough in the final third and probably didn’t create enough chances,” van Bennekom said.
Even though the result wasn’t what IU wanted, van Bennekom said there were a few positive takeaways considering the tough circumstances and mentioned how proud he was of the players’ energy on the road during a busy period in the schedule.
“We’re traveling seven hours there and back against a top-30 and NCAA tournament team and played in 90-degree weather,” van Bennekom said. “We could’ve done a little better, but it was a great experience and I’m super proud of the work rate from the players.”
The Hoosiers will return to Bloomington to face Western Michigan University at 7 p.m. Thursday at Bill Armstrong Stadium. The Broncos will come into the match fresh off a 4-0 victory against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.