Indiana women’s soccer showed its resilience in a 2-1 comeback victory on Sunday afternoon against Illinois at Bill Armstrong Stadium, furthering its efforts to show the team is worthy of an NCAA tournament bid.
Indiana began the match similarly compared to its loss to Michigan State, conceding an early goal to go down 1-0. But this time, Indiana head coach Erwin van Bennekom said his team made the right adjustments and showed plenty of character from the moment it fell behind.
“I want to give massive credit to the staff and players, and their ability to change on the fly,” van Bennekom said. “We played three systems today. I don’t think there’s any team in the country more flexible than this team.”
Coming out of the halftime break, the Hoosiers opted to shift to a backline of three central defenders and two wingbacks, but van Bennekom said even that couldn’t help them put enough pressure on the Fighting Illini.
Up until that point, Illinois had dominated the midfield battle and exposed gaps in Indiana’s defense on the counter-attack. This strategy put Illinois up 1-0 in the eighth minute through junior defender Kendra Pasquale’s third goal of the season.
Instead of hanging their heads, the Hoosiers adapted and changed their tactics.
“We went 4-1-3-2, which allowed us to press their back five and win the ball early and keep winning it high up the field,” van Bennekom said. “It was easier to press them and we didn’t track back that much.”
Soon enough, it was junior midfielder Paige Webber who put the Hoosiers on level terms in the 66th minute. Her fifth goal of the season, now the most of all the Hoosier players this fall, was hit from outside of the penalty area and blasted into the upper right corner of the net.
Indiana turned the momentum in its favor, and it was instantly on the hunt for a winning goal. In the 79th minute, graduate student forward Melanie Forbes provided it.
It was as good a time as ever for Forbes to score her first goal of the season. She sprinted with the ball from her own half to the top of the box before placing a low-driven shot just past Illinois freshman goalkeeper Naomi Jackson and off the left goalpost to put Indiana ahead.
“There’s been games in the past where we’ve thought ‘that might be it, we may not come back out of it,’ and today even though we weren’t playing great I always feel we have forwards who can score goals,” van Bennekom said.
The Fighting Illini were visibly frustrated and couldn’t keep up with the Hoosiers’ adjustments. As a result, the Hoosiers had no issues preserving their late lead. The final shot total ended 12-3 in the Hoosiers’ favor.
Despite not receiving much playing time this season compared to years past, Forbes hasn’t let it bring her down, and said she was relieved to finally find the back of the net.
“Everyone on this team plays a role whether or not they’re playing a lot of minutes,” Forbes said. “Everything makes a difference.”
The Hoosiers' depth continues to be the key in their most crucial results and wins like this are especially important for their belief in themselves going forward. The positive start to conference play means the Hoosiers currently sit in fifth place in the Big Ten standings, the same position they ended the spring season in.
“It speaks to the grit and hard work of this team,” Forbes said. “Deep down, we knew we had it in us.”
Indiana came away from its Big Ten opening with two wins out of three and will face Ohio State at 7 p.m. Thursday in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State is 7-4-0 this season and 2-1-0 in Big Ten play.