Indiana Daily Student

Things to watch when Indiana men’s soccer faces off against No. 9 Akron Zips on Friday

<p>Then-senior Nyk Sessock dribbles the ball on Sept. 3, 2021, at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Sessock, now a fifth-year senior, worked with redshirt senior Daniel Munie and junior Joey Maher on defense to keep a one-point advantage.</p>

Then-senior Nyk Sessock dribbles the ball on Sept. 3, 2021, at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Sessock, now a fifth-year senior, worked with redshirt senior Daniel Munie and junior Joey Maher on defense to keep a one-point advantage.

After Indiana men’s soccer’s gritty victory against St. John’s University on Tuesday, head coach Todd Yeagley stressed the team needed to see its improvements from the first two matches translate into wins. Now, with the first win out of the way, the Hoosiers can take a deep breath and focus on shoring up its inconsistencies.  

However, as Yeagley warned in the preseason, there can be no complacency given the team’s gauntlet of a schedule.  

At 8 p.m. Friday at Bill Armstrong Stadium, the Hoosiers, 1-1-1, will conclude their three-game homestand against No. 9 University of Akron, 4-0-0, marking Indiana’s second top-ten matchup in four games.  

Here are three things to know before the Hoosiers take on the Zips:  

Akron’s explosive attack  

In four matches this season, the Zips have tallied an absurd 15 goals. With an average of 18 shots per game and just under half of those being on goal, Akron has been able to terrorize opposing backlines and goalkeepers thus far.  

[Related: Indiana men's soccer's defense shines in shutout win after early season struggles]

Spearheaded by three goals apiece from sophomore forward Jason Shookalook and junior midfielder Johnny Fitzgerald, Akron has established itself as one of the most potent attacks in the country. While their initial caliber of opposition was a bit lackluster, the Zips proved their rapid pace and high-flying attack could take down physical Big Ten competition when it bested Michigan State 2-0 on Monday.  

With 10 different goal scorers this season, Akron’s depth is evident. Due to a load of capable attackers, it should come as no surprise when the Zips press with exceptional intensity Friday.  

Can the backline take the next step?  

In Indiana’s first two matches, they conceded three goals to both No. 1 Clemson University and the University of Portland. Granted, the former scored three borderline unsavable goals, but Portland capitalized off the Hoosiers’ uncharacteristic mistakes in their own third.  

On Tuesday, however, the defensive structure was sound and fifth year senior Nyk Sessock, redshirt senior Daniel Munie and junior Joey Maher were brilliant as a collective. Even when St. John’s attackers teed off on goal and took advantage of fatigued defenders, the Hoosiers did just enough to maintain a one goal advantage and record their first shutout.  

[Related: Indiana men's soccer secures first win this season with Tuesday's 1-0 victory over St. Johns]

Against an athletic and energetic Akron attack, the Hoosiers’ defense will need to clean up inconsistencies such as clearing and connecting passes out of the back. Yeagley said this will come with time, and he can rely on his veteran defenders to turn things around.  

A whole lot of history  

The Hoosiers have faced off against the Zips 35 times since 1975. Carrying a 25-7 record, things have been fairly one-sided in favor of the Hoosiers historically. However, the matchup has evened out as Akron has grown into a legitimate national contender.  

Since 2003, the Hoosiers have won just three of the 10 matches, and two resulted in ties. Additionally, in what has recently been an extremely high stakes matchup — three of the last 10 took place in the NCAA Tournament — Friday’s early regular season contest will be a refreshing change of pace.  

Last season, Indiana took on then-No. 1 Akron in FirstEnergy Stadium in Akron, Ohio. In what was a tense match in a hostile environment, the Hoosiers managed to come away with a 1-1 draw after two periods of overtime.  

The Hoosiers will have a chance to make a statement Friday against a top-10 team and conclude its homestand with a second straight win.

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