Indiana Daily Student

No. 15 Indiana men’s soccer opens Big Ten play with 2-1 loss against No. 22 Ohio State

<p>Then-junior forward Herbert Endeley runs after the ball Sept. 17, 2021, at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Ohio State defeated Indiana 2-1 on Sunday.</p>

Then-junior forward Herbert Endeley runs after the ball Sept. 17, 2021, at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Ohio State defeated Indiana 2-1 on Sunday.

Since the integration of the Big Ten Conference into college soccer, no member program has come close to matching the success of Indiana men’s soccer.

Historically, the Hoosiers have dominated the conference, winning the postseason title 15 times — three times more than the next foe — and likewise topping the regular season standings just as often. Year after year, the team expects to contend for a new batch of hardware against the typical regional favorites and up-and-coming squads alike.

On a steamy Sunday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio, the Hoosiers may have met their match in this season’s title race. No. 15 Indiana came second best to No. 22 Ohio State in its Big Ten opener, failing to get in a groove offensively early enough to complete a comeback in an eventual 2-1 defeat.

“That was a really slow performance in a lot of ways,” Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said. “Maybe we did too much this week, because we didn’t have much bounce today.”

[Related: No. 15 Indiana men’s soccer kicks off conference slate Sunday against No. 22 Ohio State]

While the loss halted the Hoosiers’ three-game winning streak, which included two wins against other top-25 teams, the win extended the now 5-0-2 Buckeyes’ undefeated start. Ohio State now has two ranked wins of its own following a clinical display in the attacking third.

With redshirt senior defender Daniel Munie still sidelined with a hamstring injury, Indiana stuck with a 4-4-2 formation for the second-straight match to keep a more traditional defensive shape. Up top, junior forward Nate Ward lined up alongside sophomore forward Samuel Sarver, while sophomore forward Tommy Mihalic replaced senior forward Herbert Endeley on the left wing.

Indiana created a few half-chances in the opening minutes but struggled to add the finishing touch to a slew of crosses inside the 18-yard box. From the early going, the group lacked the energy required to break down and consistently threaten Ohio State’s back line.

“Physically, we looked out of sorts,” Yeagley said.

On the other end, the Hoosiers’ defense could only escape so many Buckeye attacking phases unscathed.

The deadlock broke in the 20th minute, when Ohio State senior midfielder Xavier Green made a run past Indiana’s backline and capped off a series of short passes in the penalty area with a low strike at the near post. The shot deflected off junior goalkeeper JT Harms and trickled its way in past the goal line just before he reached back to grab the ball.

After a short video assistant referee review, the goal was confirmed for the Buckeyes.

Just before halftime, a second blow hit Indiana. Without one of their key veteran central defenders in Munie, the Hoosiers’ back line invited too much pressure into the penalty area by not clearing a pair of short crosses, resulting in the Buckeyes’ second goal.

While a few Indiana defenders were holding off a group of attackers, Ohio State freshman midfielder Luciano Pechota reacted first to a dangerous deflection in the penalty area. His low-driven strike into the near corner of the net left Harms motionless and the rest of the Hoosiers in disbelief.

The Buckeyes’ pressure rarely faltered as the match progressed into the second half, which only added to the Hoosiers’ frustration in their buildup. Up until the 72nd minute, the visitors hadn’t put a single shot on target.

[Related: ‘He was ready’: Junior defender Jansen Miller secures first collegiate goal in win against Butler]

It seemed as though Indiana would remain stuck in the hole it dug itself, but a moment of individual magic dragged the team out of the two-goal deficit and rekindled its belief toward fighting for a draw. Some much-needed urgency came in the form of Endeley, who showed off his speed when dashing toward a bouncing ball at midfield before making a solo run past four Ohio State defenders and sneaking the ball around the goalkeeper.

“Herb’s been sick this week, so he was battling,” Yeagley said. “He made a special play. We just didn’t have enough of those today.”

The Hoosiers’ offense looked revitalized after pulling back within one goal, creating enough chances to end the match with three shots on target compared to the Buckeyes’ seven. Due to their all-out attack, the spacing on the pitch opened quickly and the Buckeyes nearly added a third goal.

Ultimately, Indiana’s best efforts came too late.

Ohio State survived the late barrage to hand the Hoosiers their second loss of the season. With a grueling conference schedule ahead of them, the Hoosiers will have to perform at a top level across the entirety of matches to string together their usual success.

“We’ve been able to find our way to the top after a loss,” Yeagley said. “Points are pivotal. You don’t want any to slip away.”

Indiana will return to Bill Armstrong Stadium in search of its first Big Ten victory against Michigan State at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

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