For Indiana women’s soccer head coach Erwin van Bennekom and his team, Wednesday night’s match against Trine University was exactly what they needed.
The Hoosiers defeated the Thunder 5-0, rotated significant minutes between 19 total players and earned a crucial, confidence-boosting win heading into a tough conference schedule.
“The shutout, scoring goals and the win was all we wanted,” van Bennekom said.
In only its fourth-ever matchup against a non-Division I school, Indiana dominated Trine from start to finish. While any other result against the Division III Thunder might have caused concern, van Bennekom said the unbalanced match was a good step for his team right before facing a slew of ranked Big Ten opponents.
“Our men’s coach, Todd Yeagley, and I were talking about last year,” van Bennekom said. “They played Trine. It came at a perfect time for them. This was not planned — we didn’t want to have five ties coming into this game — but it came at the right time.”
Those five draws are tied for a D-I record for scoreless draws in a season, with over seven weeks left before the NCAA Tournament.
“Everybody’s talking about those five ties like it’s the biggest disaster,” van Bennekom said. “With who we played, four out of the five were top-30 teams.”
If there was any concern about an offensive slump, the Hoosiers put those rumors to rest against the Thunder.
Indiana’s first goal came in the eighth minute of the game from freshman defender Natasha Kim. Sophomore forward Jordan Levy added two more of her own before the 18-minute mark to close out the half, giving the Hoosiers a 3-0 lead going into the second 45 minutes.
The three-point lead matched that of Indiana’s 3-0 win against Indiana State on Sept. 1, the only other game this season that saw any scoring. However, against the Sycamores, all of the Hoosiers’ offensive production came in the second 45 minutes.
In the second half, redshirt freshman Ava Akeel saw two of her shots hit the back of the net in the 50th and 62nd minutes of the game. Akeel was one of many second-string players who had, undoubtedly, her best and most action-packed performance of the season. Still, van Bennekom expects nothing less from his players.
“Their job is to score goals,” van Bennekom said. “In these games, it doesn’t really matter how it looks or how they go in, it’s just being in the right place at the right time and having the ability to finish. (Levy and Akeel) scored two goals in the limited amount of minutes they played, so they both played really well.”
Wednesday’s outcome, with a season-high five goals, serves as a positive boost for the Hoosiers in terms of morale, who wrap up their nonconference slate and enter Big Ten play two games above .500. Indiana’s next matchup against No. 8 Penn State will be one of the most challenging of the season, according to van Bennekom.
“I think they’re even better than last year,” van Bennekom said. “Bunch of good attacking players, and they’re defensively solid.”
Given their outstanding defensive play all season and newfound offensive firepower, a conference win is not out of the question for the Hoosiers if they give a similar performance to that against the Thunder.
“We have to play at our best to have a chance,” van Bennekom said. “We’re gonna do everything we can to be at our best.”