Indiana Daily Student

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

<p>Senior forward Ryan Wittenbrink makes a goal attempt against the University of Akron on Sept. 9, 2022, at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Indiana will face Ohio State at 2 p.m. Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.</p>

Senior forward Ryan Wittenbrink makes a goal attempt against the University of Akron on Sept. 9, 2022, at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Indiana will face Ohio State at 2 p.m. Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.

Though it was just the second match of the season, it was evident that Indiana men's soccer's struggles and frustration came to a head against the University of Portland on Aug. 30 at home.

The tough schedule posed challenges, but the self-inflicted mistakes plaguing the squad were rather uncharacteristic of one of head coach Todd Yeagley’s teams. After the match, Yeagley lamented the team’s defending but offered optimism saying the mistakes were correctable.

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

Now, after three straight wins and two-consecutive victories over ranked teams, the Hoosiers are riding high as they head into conference play. On Sunday, Indiana will look to take down yet another ranked opponent as they travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on No. 22 Ohio State at 2 p.m.

Here are some things to know when the teams take the pitch:

Ohio State notes

Last season, the Buckeyes compiled a 2-6 record in the Big Ten en route to a last place conference finish. However, after defeating talented sides in No. 20 Butler University and Bowling Green State University this season and drawing No. 14 Akron, Ohio State has seemingly turned the page from a despondent 2021 campaign.

Led by graduate student goalkeeper Keegan McLaughlin, a transfer from the University of Notre Dame, the Buckeyes surrendered just one goal in its first four matches. With an offseason focus on creating more chances offensively, Ohio State has certainly improved on the attack, averaging over 16 shots per match and receiving goal contributions from 11 different players.

Historically, this matchup has drastically favored the Hoosiers. Since 2011, Indiana has tallied a 12-1-1 record against the Buckeyes.

With the English duo of midfielders in Ohio State freshman Marko Borkovic and junior Laurence Wootton, though, the team’s first and second leading goal scorers, Sunday’s match figures to be more competitive than years past.

Depth is key for Indiana

On Wednesday night, the Hoosiers proved why they can hang with any opponent. When Butler’s intense pressure early on challenged the starters, multiple reserves stepped in seamlessly to add a crucial spark and a steady presence.

Perhaps no other player has exemplified this depth more than redshirt senior attacker Ryan Wittenbrink. Despite not starting a match this season, Wittenbrink has come off the bench ready to contribute time and time again and has become the team’s top goals and points scorer.

With a bevy of talented forwards and midfielders, the Hoosiers have been able to rotate consistently throughout the season to adapt and counter the opposing team’s strengths. Though Indiana has dealt with its fair share of physicality thus far, depth and reliable rotations will be crucial to thriving against aggressive teams in conference play.

The ongoing goalkeeper situation

Junior goalkeeper JT Harms has now made two consecutive starts since redshirt senior Bryant Pratt went down with an elbow injury against St. John’s University on Sept. 6. Prior to the season, Yeagley said he believed he had two starter-caliber goalkeepers on the roster, and evaluation would continue every week.

Despite Harms starting the season against Clemson University, Pratt stepped in against Portland and figured to be the starting goalkeeper for the foreseeable future before sustaining an injury in the ensuing match. Harms has been more than serviceable in his last two starts, making terrific saves in the clutch and holding explosive attacks in the University of Akron and Butler to just one goal.

Harms will get the start against the Buckeyes as Pratt continues to recover from the injury, but it will remain to be seen if the Hoosiers have a long-term starter in net.

Follow reporters Kamil Gut (@GutKamil) and Matt Press (@MatthewPress23) for updates throughout the game and the rest of the Indiana men’s soccer season.

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