In a match that was postponed from Sept. 4 due to inclement weather, Indiana men’s soccer bested in-state rival University of Notre Dame 1-0 on Wednesday night at Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington.
The victory extended the Hoosiers’ unbeaten streak against the Fighting Irish to six matches, a span during which they’ve won five of those meetings. The Hoosiers’ record now stands at 5-2-3 overall and a nearly flawless 4-0-2 at home.
Both sides were ranked in the United Soccer Coaches’ top-25 poll prior to the originally scheduled match, with Indiana placed at No. 21 and Notre Dame at No. 22. A month later, both entered Wednesday’s meeting outside the rankings looking for a big boost to their resumes.
For the Hoosiers, the delay was worth the wait.
“This was a good game to win in this way, because we haven’t had this type of game,” Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said. “It felt like a game where we weren’t going to get a lot of chances. Kind of a methodical win, did what we needed to do.”
The opening half of play was tightly contested between the two sides, as neither sustained enough possession in the early stages to break down the others’ defensive lines. Rather, chances came through short bursts of pace by forwards coupled with quality service, which demanded both back lines to stay alert at all times.
Notre Dame’s best chance of the first half came in the ninth minute, when junior defender Paddy Burns slipped through the left side of the penalty area and volleyed an overhead pass that ricocheted off the top of the near post and out of play.
In the 18th and 19th minutes, sophomore forward Tommy Mihalic and senior forward Ryan Wittenbrink had back-to-back runs behind the Fighting Irish’s back line thwarted. Mihalic found himself unmarked on the left side, but his speed carried him to the byline and forced a weak shot from an impossible angle. Wittenbrink attempted a chip over Fighting Irish junior goalkeeper Bryan Dowd, but his powerful touch sent the ball just above the crossbar.
Indiana’s breakthrough in the 25th minute came from an expected source of production in recent weeks: senior forward Herbert Endeley, the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.
After providing two assists and a goal for the Hoosiers last week, Endeley carried his good form over with some more flashes of brilliance on the ball. An aggressive solo run from midfield to the edge of the penalty area earned the Hoosiers their third penalty kick of the season.
“He’s a baller,” Wittenbrink said about Endeley. “It’s been fun the past few games. We’re starting to get better chemistry up top.”
Wittenbrink coolly slotted the penalty kick into the bottom left corner of the net, giving Indiana a 1-0 advantage. With his team-leading fifth goal of the season, Wittenbrink matched his single-season individual record, a mark he also posted in the COVID-19-shortened 2021 spring season.
Indiana eased into the remainder of the match, controlling possession and limiting Notre Dame’s opportunities to equalize. The Fighting Irish failed to register a single shot on target in the second half, but it came closer to scoring than the box score suggests.
Sophomore midfielder Bryce Boneau’s strike from the top of the 18-yard box in the 55th minute nearly rolled into the net, but misfortune struck twice as the left post stood firm again. With 10 minutes to go, an overhead pass picked apart the Hoosiers’ defense and was struck into the back of the net, but the referee ruled the play offside immediately.
In the end, the Hoosiers hung on to the victory and earned their first clean sheet in six matches.
With redshirt senior defender Daniel Munie back in the starting lineup for the first time since Sept. 9 – the team’s last shutout – the defensive movement and communication looked as sharp as ever.
“People may be more comfortable with me out there,” Munie said. “We’re able to play guys in positions they’re more comfortable in.”
Munie overcame a hamstring injury in time to play against Michigan on Sunday, leading the charge for the final 30 minutes and contributing the tying goal in the 2-2 draw. He said getting that playing time helped him keep pushing himself physically as time increased against Notre Dame.
“I kept trying to not make eye contact with the trainer,” Yeagley said jokingly about managing Munie’s playing time. “There’s a window, and a lot of that’s based on the player. I think because it wasn’t a real up-and-down affair – it was probably the least amount of running we’ve had to do – that really helped.”
Senior goalkeeper Bryant Pratt also made his first appearance in net since suffering an arm injury on Sept. 6. Although he made just one save and was rarely tested, Pratt’s fitness level seemed high and he showed his typical composure in passing and building out of the defensive third.
Indiana will get back to Big Ten play with a road matchup against Rutgers at noon Sunday. Rutgers is in a two-way tie for second in the conference standings, while Indiana sits in a two-way tie for third place.