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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

sports women's soccer

What to expect when Indiana women’s soccer faces Ohio State, No. 17 Michigan this week


Coming off a pair of home victories against Iowa and Illinois this past week, Indiana women’s soccer travels to face Ohio State at 7 p.m. Thursday in Columbus, Ohio, before returning to Bill Armstrong Stadium for a clash with No. 17 Michigan at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Indiana is 8-2-1 overall and 2-1-0 in Big Ten play, good for fifth in the conference standings.

Before the matches kick off, here’s what to expect in each and what makes these opponents so valuable for Indiana’s NCAA tournament resume.

On the road at Ohio State

Thursday’s match at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium will be Indiana’s first Big Ten away match this season. Indiana is 1-1-1 on the road. 

Ohio State lost its only conference home match against Minnesota 4-2.

Ohio State had an inspiring spring season to build off, finishing second in the Big Ten regular season standings and losing only three matches. Its final loss came in the NCAA tournament against eventual national champion Santa Clara University.

The Buckeyes have been troubled by inconsistency this fall, but they’ve already faced five ranked opponents and lost to three, which puts their 7-4-0 record in better context. One of the Buckeyes’ two wins over ranked teams came Sunday against the then-No. 12 Penn State Nittany Lions, the reigning Big Ten regular season champions. The victory proves the Buckeyes belong in this season’s title conversation.

Three Ohio State forwards — senior Kayla Fischer, junior Emma Sears and freshman Kailyn Dudukovich — have accounted for two-thirds of the team’s 21 goals this season. 

Sears, who leads Ohio State with five goals, got on the scoresheet once in the 2-0 victory over Indiana in the last matchup. Dudukovich was just named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for scoring a brace against Minnesota.

“We’re confident but very aware of Ohio State’s quality,” Indiana head coach Erwin van Bennekom said in a midweek press conference. “I think their front three are some of the best players in our conference. Lots of attacking power. We want to limit the space those forwards have.”

Junior midfielder Paige Webber’s team-leading five goals, freshman goalkeeper Jamie Gerstenberg’s seven shutouts and freshman forward Jordyn Levy’s ten points have guided Indiana to success early in the season. Van Bennekom said there’s more work to be done.

With positive results comes pressure, and the next few matches give Indiana the perfect opportunity to continue to prove itself as a top team in both the Big Ten and country.

“Ohio State is going to be a top 25 team, so at the end of the year this will be a big result for us,” van Bennekom said. “From a psychological standpoint, it’s easier to play games that are not must-win games. But with where this team is now, every game there’s something to lose.”

Back in Bloomington against No. 17 Michigan

Michigan will be Indiana’s first ranked opponent this season. Despite some fluctuation, Michigan has held onto a spot in the United Soccer Coaches Top-25 poll throughout all six weeks and is currently ranked No. 17 on the back of its 7-1-2 record.

The Wolverines have built a reputation through a similarly organized defensive unit as the Hoosiers.

The Hoosiers are currently a top-10 team in the nation in goals allowed, conceding only four through 11 matches. The Wolverines are close behind, having allowed five goals through 10 matches.

The Hoosiers will be pulling every string possible to come away with the upset. 

“I think none of those teams want to play us, which I like,” van Bennekom said. “I’m mostly excited about how hard we can make it for these top teams and annoy them.”

Van Bennekom said he expects Indiana’s performances against a difficult stretch of teams to serve as building blocks going forwards.

“Hopefully, there will be lessons with results,” van Bennekom said. “We’re set up to get results, and in the next five games, even if we get two results, we’ll be able to start talking about the NCAA tournament.”

After Sunday’s match against Michigan, Indiana will travel to Northwestern, Penn State and Maryland for a three-match road trip, its longest of the season.

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