Indiana women’s soccer returned to Bill Armstrong Stadium for the first time in 315 days and welcomed back the home crowd with a 3-0 win Thursday night against Indiana State University. The Hoosiers scored their first goals of 2022 while honoring their three seniors with pregame festivities.
“I am so proud of the team,” head coach Erwin van Bennekom said after the match.
Van Bennekom said the team was starting to feel the pressure after failing to score in the first three matches, but he credits his team’s patience.
It took Indiana over 55 minutes to score in this game, meaning over 750 minutes passed between Indiana last goal dating back to the previous season. It appeared after the first half Indiana was destined for another scoreless draw after only recording one shot on goal in the first 45 minutes.
“Obviously at halftime it being 0-0 was not a great feeling,” van Bennekom said.
Going into the second half van Bennekom stated that, tactically, he didn’t want to change anything from the first 45 minutes, but “maybe move the ball a little bit faster.” He said the only real change he made was moving his wingers wider and higher up to pitch to create more of an offensive attack.
The second half saw a flurry of Hoosier goals, but the best chance of the match for the Sycamores came in the 53rd minute with the game still knotted up at zero.
Sophomore goalkeeper Jamie Gerstenberg came off her line in an attempt to punch out a cross, leaving Sycamore sophomore forward Mackenzie Kent with an open net, but her shot couldn’t beat the scampering Hoosier goalkeeper, who made her first and only save of the match.
With just over 55 minutes on the clock, Indiana got its long-awaited breakthrough. Senior forward Paige Webber got her head on a cross from fellow senior midfielder Alaina Kalin’s header to break the deadlock. Webber led the team with five goals in 2021 and gets credit for Indiana’s first goal in 2022.
Less than five minutes later, Indiana doubled its lead courtesy of junior forward Jen Blitchok, who blasted a shot off her right foot to get on the scoresheet for the first time this season. Kalin also assisted on that goal, giving her two on the night.
The third and final goal came from junior forward Anna Bennett in the 76th minute following a great sequence to put the icing on the cake.
“Once the first one went in, the openings would come,” van Bennekom said.
Indiana ended up with 24 shots compared to Indiana State’s three, with a third of those coming on goal. It was by far Indiana’s best offensive performance in the four matches this season.
All three seniors who were honored before the game got playing time. Defender Megan Wampler started the game as usual, but defender Karlee Luker and graduate goalkeeper Bethany Kopel both were subbed on once Indiana took the lead.
“Our goal was to win today but also to make it a little bit of a celebration for our three seniors who have been tremendous for our program,” head coach Erwin van Bennekom said after the match. “It was everything we wanted.”
Indiana has yet to concede this season, but that streak will be tested in the next match, as the University of Notre Dame team comes to Bloomington on Sunday. The Fighting Irish are a perfect 5-0 and are ranked No. 16 in the latest United Soccer Coaches Poll.