Despite a rainy beginning to the game and a late 8 p.m. start at Bill Armstrong Stadium, Hoosier fans were out to support the No. 1 IU men’s soccer team Tuesday for the first time since Dec. 1, 2019 — a 639 day gap. The Hoosiers took down Butler University 1-0.
The student section lined the north side of Jerry Yeagley Field and the IU faithful packed into the stands on the south side. A total of 2,592 fans attended the game according to IU.
“As we fatigued in the second half, no doubt the crowd was a huge part of getting us through that phase,” head coach Todd Yeagley said. “Just want to thank the fans, in particular the students.”
Led by president Nick Stevens, IU’s Student Athletic Board was out in full force within the student section as it conducted its pregame baby powder toss and flag run. IU’s Crabb Band also played throughout the game, and the RedSteppers performed at halftime.
“All the classes, all the people here, freshman to senior, came out wanting to be here and wanting to cheer on the Hoosiers,” Stevens said. “It's fantastic to see.”
The Bulldogs were aggressive in the first five minutes of the game and had two shots on goal, both of which were saved by junior goalkeeper Roman Celentano. As the rain subsided, the Hoosiers took control of the action and would possess a 7-3 shot advantage into the halftime break.
A goal from sophomore defender Joey Maher in the 29th minute was the difference in IU’s second win in as many games this season. Maher ricocheted a header off the top bar, then Butler goalkeeper senior Gabriel Gjergji made a save on a follow-up shot.
The Hoosiers would get a third chance, and it was Maher who followed up the save with his first goal of the season. Tuesday was Maher’s first regular-season game in front of the home crowd.
“It was something else,” Maher said about playing in front of the home fans. “I just can’t wait for more home games to be honest with you.”
After giving up two goals in its season-opener against the University of Notre Dame, IU’s defense settled in after a dangerous first five minutes to shut out Butler. Celentano’s two saves early on were all the Hoosiers needed from him to keep the Bulldogs off the board.
The Hoosiers came into the game ranked No. 1 in the country after last year’s NCAA champions Marshall University lost to Virginia Tech last week. IU lived up to expectations and was able to come away with a win in front of its home fans.
“There's so much excitement,” Stevens said. “We expect it to be number one in the nation for all sports, and we expect our students to be number one in the nation out of everybody.”
The Hoosiers were without three of their key players — junior forward Victor Bezerra, senior midfielder Joe Schmidt and junior forward Ryan Wittenbrink — but Yeagley said there’s a good chance all three of them will return at some point this weekend.
IU is taking on Creighton University at 8 p.m. Friday and Xavier University at 8 p.m. Monday — both home games — giving IU fans two more chances to cheer on the No. 1 team in the country this week.