Indiana women’s soccer extended its winning streak to four with a 3-0 victory against Kansas State University Sunday night in Manhattan, Kansas. The result pushes Indiana’s record to 6-1-1 overall.
Indiana head coach Erwin van Bennekom said heading into the match Kansas State would be one of his side’s more difficult non-conference opponents, but its inconsistent 4-3-0 record heading into Sunday’s match suggested otherwise.
The Wildcats had shut out their opponents in all four of their wins, but posted an underwhelming 1-7 combined goal differential in their three losses. The Wildcats finally returned to Buser Family Park on Sunday following a five-match road trip that concluded with a 2-0 defeat to Purdue.
Junior midfielder Paige Webber, who scored a hat trick in 42 minutes off the bench in Thursday’s 4-0 victory against Murray State University, made Indiana’s starting XI for the first time this season. Webber wasted no time making the most of her opportunity and taking advantage of Kansas State’s defensive woes.
In the fifth minute, Webber made a run on the far left side of the penalty area and crossed the ball along the grass and into the path of sophomore forward Anna Bennett. Bennett chipped the ball past Kansas State sophomore goalkeeper Alaina Werremeyer for her second goal of the season.
After the win against Murray State, van Bennekom noted that up until they scored deep into the first half, the Hoosiers hadn’t been playing to their offensive standards to start the match. When the whistle blew at the start of the match Sunday, the improvement was obvious.
“We really didn’t give ourselves a chance to grow into the game,” van Bennekom said. “The team did a good job of starting on the front foot and we finished our chances tonight.”
The pace slowed down for the next 20 minutes, but Indiana was still the more threatening side. Kansas State was held to zero shots in the first half compared to Indiana’s nine.
In the 36th minute, junior midfielder Avery Lockwood received the ball just a few yards in front of the halfway line and noticed Werremeyer was high off her line, so she took a chance.
The ball floated over Werremeyer’s head and into the net, giving the Hoosiers a 2-0 lead. The strike was Lockwood’s third goal of the season.
Less than a minute before the halftime whistle, sophomore forward Jen Blitchok made a short run toward the outside right of the pitch and blasted the ball from more than 30 yards out, which left Werremeyer backpedaling into her own net. Blitchok’s strike to put the Hoosiers up 3-0 was also her third goal of the year.
Indiana refused to allow Kansas State to become comfortable at the start of the second half and as a result, Kansas State had no answers for its defensive organization, even in transition. The final shot total was 14-7 in Indiana’s favor.
“It’s easy to get comfortable in the second half and stop doing the things we’re always doing,” van Bennekom said. “I’m proud of the team and how professionally we played that out.”
Aside from a few chances off set pieces in the final 20 minutes, the Wildcats weren’t able to threaten the Hoosiers enough to spark a comeback. Goalkeeper Jamie Gerstenberg made four crucial saves, including a 70th minute stop at point-blank range on a Kansas State corner, to earn Indiana’s sixth clean sheet of the season and third in a row.
It was the first road win of the season in three attempts for the Hoosiers. Their previous results away from home included a 0-0 draw at the University of Notre Dame and a 1-0 defeat at the University of Memphis.
Van Bennekom said the Hoosiers’ approach won’t change much just because they finally came away with a victory on the road. He said the other road performances showed promising signs despite disappointing results.
"I don't think it's different now that we've won one,” van Bennekom said. “It can sometimes be easier since there are less distractions — obviously it's difficult traveling — but it always allows us to approach it as a business trip.”
Van Bennekom said the Hoosiers’ consistency in defense greatly improved over the course of the non-conference half of the schedule, especially when they had a lead to hold on to, but opted to keep attacking.
“Teams know it's hard to score coming to play us,” van Bennekom said. “We’ve found the right balance where we’re not getting exposed defensively while also creating more chances. That’s what the best teams do, and I’m not saying we’re there yet, but we’ve gotten much better.”
Indiana will have a week to recover before opening its Big Ten schedule with three straight home matches. Indiana will play Michigan State at 1 p.m Sunday at Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington.