On a brisk fall Sunday at Bill Armstrong Stadium in chilly Bloomington, No. 25 Indiana women’s soccer looked to find a victory in its final home game of the regular season. Standing in the way was a gritty Michigan squad that hoped to stifle an Indiana offense averaging nearly two goals per game.
The opening half had no shortage of chances with both teams taking turns making runs at the opposing goals. Indiana found a pair of shots on goal while Michigan took just one, though the two sides combined for a total of ten shots. Regardless, neither offense could find a score in the initial 45 minutes, sending the teams into halftime.
It looked as though the game was heading towards another draw, a result the Hoosiers hoped to avoid after a 1-1 draw versus Michigan State on Oct. 12. However, that all changed when the Wolverines committed an error that would ultimately cost them the game.
Following a handball violation in the 61st minute by Michigan’s sophomore defender Aniyah League, Indiana was gifted its best chance of the game in the form of a penalty kick. The Hoosiers had attempted just one penalty kick all season prior to the game, the final goal in a 3-0 win over Morehead State on Aug. 24. Freshman defender Piper Coffield converted that attempt, so it was no surprise when the Pennsylvania native was called upon in the game's pinnacle moment.
Although it's her first year playing collegiate soccer, Coffield showed the composure of a seasoned veteran as she calmly slotted a shot into the bottom right corner of the net, giving Indiana the 1-0 lead.
“I think it's a reflection of our team,” she said, “Anybody at any moment can step up and I was just fortunate to have that opportunity today.”
Coffield’s conversion was her third goal of the season and places her third on the team in goals scored.
Indiana’s 1-0 lead was far from a sure win, as Michigan continued to pepper in shots throughout the remainder of the second half. Fortunately for the Hoosiers, junior goalkeeper Jamie Gerstenberg stepped up, recording two saves en route to her record-breaking 24th career shutout. The German-born keeper stands alone at the top of program history in career clean sheets.
“It is a personal award when you look at it,” Gerstenberg said in the postgame “But it's really a reflection of the team. So, it's a full team award and I'm just proud of every single one of us.”
With Sunday’s victory under the belt, Indiana will hit the road for two final games to close out the regular season. The Hoosiers will next be in action Thursday, when they travel to State College, Pennsylvania, to take on No. 4 Penn State. The marquee matchup will pit the Big Ten’s top two teams against one another and will likely have major implications at the top of the conference standings. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on Big Ten Plus.