Indiana women’s soccer saved its best game for last, winning the final match of the season 1-0 on the road against Michigan on Sunday afternoon.
A first-half goal from redshirt freshman midfielder Ava Akeel in the 25th minute was all Indiana needed to see the game out and avoid going winless in conference play.
Indiana has played its best at the beginning of each half this season, but Sunday’s first half was arguably the best 45 minutes Indiana has played all season. The Hoosiers outclassed the Wolverines in the first half with 12 shots, seven shots on goal and seven corners. In comparison, Indiana had only recorded seven or more shots on goal in a full game three times entering Sunday’s match.
One of those corners resulted in the lone goal for the visitors, with junior forward Anna Bennett delivering in the cross. The initial shot from freshman defender Natasha Kim was blocked, but Akeel was there to clean up the rebound and score Indiana’s first goal on the road of the season. It was Akeel’s third goal of the season, and she finishes the campaign with the most on the team. Akeel finished with a game-high six shots and five shots on goal.
There were several other opportunities in the first half for Indiana to add to its lead, but Michigan starting goalkeeper, graduate Izzy Nino, made six strong saves — many requiring a dive.
Indiana added another three shots in the second half and was just inches away from doubling its lead in the second half. A free kick from senior defender Megan Wampler was bobbled by Nino, and with the Wolverines goalkeeper off her line, Kim lobbed the ball over everyone and nearly into the net. However, it was cleared off the line by a Wolverine defender, keeping the lead at one following a video review.
In the second half though, the chances belonged to Michigan. The Wolverines controlled much more of the possession and kept the ball within the attacking third, something they could not do in the first half. However, they could not get past Indiana’s graduate goalkeeper Bethany Kopel, who started in favor of sophomore Jamie Gerstenberg.
In her final match as a Hoosier, Kopel made three saves on the eight Michigan shots she faced in the second half to bring home the victory — Indiana’s first in the conference and first away from home this season.
Kopel finishes her career with the cream and crimson with 25 shutouts and 307 saves. She extended her lead for most shutouts in Indiana program history and her save count is second most in history.
Kopel got her hands on the ball as time expired to give Indiana a much-deserved victory, just the team’s third of the season. The win means Indiana avoids going winless on the road and in conference for the first time since 2015.
With Purdue’s loss against Maryland, Indiana jumps ahead of its in-state rivals and finishes two points and one place ahead of the Boilermakers. Thus, Indiana avoided finishing bottom of the Big Ten, with 2015 also being the last time that happened.
The win marks the first time Indiana won a conference match in 380 days. The Hoosiers beat Northwestern on October 8, 2021, also on the road with a 1-0 score line.
Indiana concludes the season with some optimism despite finishing below where they were picked in the preseason poll. Indiana’s record ends at 3-7-7 overall, and 1-7-2 in conference play with 5 points.