Indiana women’s soccer opened its conference slate on Sunday in Bloomington with a matchup against No. 8 Penn State. The game resulted in a 0-0 draw, the Hoosiers’ sixth scoreless tie of the season and a new NCAA D-I record.
Though Indiana has been all too familiar with Sunday’s outcome, head coach Erwin van Bennekom said his team is treating it differently than the rest.
“If we didn’t have that many ties going into this game, the narrative would be a little different,” van Bennekom said. “I told (the team) to look at this one separate.”
The draw against the Nittany Lions was significant for the Hoosiers in more ways than the notable NCAA D-I record. Van Bennekom earned the first point against Penn State in his tenure, Indiana snapped a five-game losing streak in the series, and sophomore goalkeeper Jamie Gerstenberg recorded the 16th clean sheet of her career, extending the Hoosiers’ exceptional defensive campaign.
[Related: 'The win was all we wanted': Scoring frenzy leads Indiana women's soccer to second victory this season]
Gerstenberg collected her first save in the seventh minute, but the aggressive play of the Hoosier defenders limited the Nittany Lions’ shots on goal. For the majority of the first half, Penn State struggled to move the ball into its half of the field, and Indiana retained possession for a longer duration than the opponent.
“Our defense, the whole team and the way we set up was much better in the first half,” van Bennekom said. “We relied less on Jamie, but she still made key saves to keep us in the game.”
Gerstenberg tallied eight saves, tying her career high from a matchup against Virginia Tech on Aug. 21. Her goalie play was crucial to the draw, with Penn State attempting eight total shots in the second half, including one in the game’s final 15 seconds.
Unlike most of the draws that Indiana has encountered this season, the offensive production in Sunday’s matchup was consistent and high quality. The Hoosiers’ aggressive play and competitive drive was evident in their speed, pesky defense and in-control offense from the outset.
Against a Penn State offense that had scored thirteen goals in six games before coming to Bloomington, the entirety of Indiana’s squad made a point of fighting for every 50-50 ball, intercepting passes and refusing to back down.
“We stopped (Penn State) from stretching the ball out, and we stopped them from isolating in the right area,” van Bennekom said. “We got exactly what we wanted.”
Despite fourteen total fouls and an intense foot race of a game, the Hoosiers’ competitive drive never wavered. Van Bennekom credited behind-the-scenes figures in the program and his own athletes’ mental maturity for the exceptional preparation leading up to the conference matchup against a top-10 team.
“Our team does an amazing job of providing the scout for me, thinking about how we’re gonna set up defensively, press them and disrupt them,” van Bennekom said. “I’m so impressed with (the players) and how we can come up with something, and they execute it to a T.”
The Hoosiers will travel to Minneapolis to face Minnesota on Thursday. The match is set to begin at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on BTN+.