It was a rainy night at Bill Armstong Stadium in Bloomington Wednesday, but the field wasnâ€™t all that was sloppy as the Hoosiers (8-3-2) took on rival Kentucky (8-7-1).
IU looked to stretch to a three game winning streak after defeating Butler and Michigan in their past two games. The Wildcats didnâ€™t let the Hoosiers off easily, however.
Kentucky came out of the gate looking much more aggressive than the Hoosiers, putting up eight corner kicks compared Indianaâ€™s one.
Both teams had some good looks at the net, but neither could connect for a goal in the first half.
IU goalkeeper Luis Soffner kept the game in check with saves on a few close calls for the Wildcats that could have easily put the Hoosiers down at the half. But the combination of Kentuckyâ€™s attacking offense and pressing weather conditions would keep the Hoosiers out of their normal offensive groove for most of the first half of the contest.
Despite sloppy play and a lackluster performance by Indiana in the first half, the Hoosiers came out in the second half with the aggression and confidence typical of a Yeagley coached IU squad.
â€œThatâ€™s three in a row we havenâ€™t been playing our best in the first half,â€ said Midfielder Nikita Kotlov, â€œbut we picked it up in the second half.â€
Freshman Forward Eriq Zavaleta knocked in a penalty kick for the Hoosiers early in the half, giving Indiana the 1-0 lead.Â IU continued to fight for possessions, and would dominate most of the second half.
As the match drew to a close, the Hoosiers sealed the win with a goal from 20 yards out from Nikita Kotlov with only 8:34 left to play in the contest. Â Indiana would defeat Kentucky 2-0, extending their record against the Wildcats to 22-1-3.
Despite the win, Indianaâ€™s sloppy first half is not atypical for the Hoosiers of late.Â This match marked the fourth game in a row that the Hoosiers did not score in the first half.
While the IU players said the weather played a factor in the slow startup, they didnâ€™t use the tough playing conditions as an excuse.
â€œIt was hard to get going with it being cold and rainy out,â€ said Goalkeeper Luis Soffner. â€œ But we needed to trust our defense and be confident. It was a good feeling getting a few saves, but if we limit those chances, thatâ€™s an even better feeling.â€
The Hoosiers go on to face Michigan State on Sunday and hope to continue their recent win streak.
The players and coaches are well aware that if they want to continue playing at the level signature to IU soccer, stretches of no offensive production like in the first half of this game canâ€™t happen, especially as they near the post season.
â€œWe need to find results in games like these because in the post season, each teamâ€™s gonna be better,â€ Coach Yeagley said after the win over Kentucky. â€œWe need to stay motivated to keep us in the hunt, which we very much are right now.
The Hoosiers are certainly in the hunt in a post season race that seems wide open after a week of unexpected losses from many top ten teams including Connecticut, Louisville and Akron.
â€œWe know how good we can be when weâ€™re on,â€ said Midfielder Alec Purdie. â€œA lot of teams have fallen his week, but at the end of the day, we know we control our own destiny.â€
A _-_ On a team where over half of the starting lineup consists of freshmen and sophomores, its no surprise that much of the IU offense comes from these underclassmen. Freshman defender Eriq Zavaleta is no exception, and in fact leads the Hoosiers in goals this season.
- Coming off his first career multiple-goal match
- His seven goals this season are the most by a freshman since Darren Yeagley in 2006
- Named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week this week and honored by College Soccer News for the second time this season
- 3 goals in a two game span with 2 over Michigan and 1 on October 12 against Butler
-Soccer runs in the family: his uncle and father are both in the UCLA Bruins hall of fame and his uncle is currently the
- 4 percent (6/11) of Indianaâ€™s starting lineup is either a freshman orÂ sophomore. In addition, the first two players off the bench are also sophomores.
â€¢ Twelve different players have scored points for IU this year.
â€¢ The Hoosiers have been held scoreless in the first half for three-straight matches (Creighton, Butler, and Michigan).
â€¢ Zavaleta is currently tied for the team lead in goals scored with seven.Â That is the most goals in a season by a Hoosier freshman since DarrenÂ Yeagle also netted seven in 2006.Â Freshman Eriq Zavaletaâ€™s uncle, Greg Vanney, is currently an assistantÂ coach with MLSâ€™ Chivas USA and was an 11-year member of the U.S.Â Menâ€™s National Team. Both his uncle Greg and father, Carlos, played at UCLA and are in the Bruinsâ€™ Hall of Fame.
- Freshman Eriq Zavaleta has earned national honors for the second timeÂ this season as he was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the WeekÂ and to the College Soccer News Team of the Week and the Top DrawerÂ Soccer Team of the Week on Oct. 17.
â€¢ It is the second time this season Zavaleta has been honored by CollegeÂ Soccer News as he was also named to the team of the week on Sept. 5.
â€¢ Zavaleta earns the recognition after tallying three goals in a two-matchÂ span for the Hoosiers. He netted the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victoryÂ over Butler on Oct. 12, and added a pair of scores in a 4-1 win at MichiganÂ on Oct. 15.
â€¢ The two goals vs. Michigan give Zavaleta his first career multiple-goalÂ game.
â€¢ Zavaleta is currently tied for the team lead in goals scored with seven.Â That is the most goals in a season by a Hoosier freshman since DarrenÂ Yeagley also netted seven in 2006.
â€¢ Freshman Eriq Zavaletaâ€™s uncle, Greg Vanney, is currently an assistantÂ coach with MLSâ€™ Chivas USA and was an 11-year member of the U.S.Â Menâ€™s National Team. Both his uncle Greg and father, Carlos, played atÂ UCLA and are in the Bruinsâ€™ Hall of Fame.
Photo by Mike Dickbernd,Â IUÂ Athletics