The Indiana men's soccer team will kick off preseason play this week as the top ranked team in the country at the National Soccer Festival in Fort Wayne.
The Hoosiers will take the pitch for the first time since winning the national championship last season. They will square off against No. 12 Marquette on Thursday at 7 p.m., and then against No. 4 North Carolina on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Head coach Todd Yeagley expressed his excitement for the season to start, and noted that these preseason games will be tough.
"Marquette's a great challenge," Yeagley said. "They're going to be a team that's returning a lot of players, and they had a fantastic year last year."
Yeagley touched on how Indiana will approach the exhibition matches, and it is looking to get out of them.
"These exhibitions will allow us to tweak and do some things creatively to make sure we know where we are come the first of September," Yeagley said.
The preseason matches will give Indiana a chance to find replacements in the lineup for key players from last season that it lost.
The Hoosiers have to replace their star forward and top goal-scorer, Eriq Zavaleta. Zavaleta left the Hoosiers after his sophomore campaign and was drafted by the Seattle Sounders in the Major League Soccer draft. Zavaleta scored 18 goals for the Hoosiers last season.
Femi Hollinger-Janzen, Kyle Sparks, or Andrew Oliver will be Zavaleta's likely replacement.
Not only does Indiana have to replace its top goal-scorer, but it will also have to replace its goalkeeper, Luis Soffner. Soffner played every minute of the season last year, and surrendered just .72 goals per game.
His likely replacement will be redshirt sophomore Michael Soderlund.
While Yeagley will be creative with his lineups to try and find guys that gel together this weekend, he noted that the team's ultimate goal is to be prepared for the opening weekend of regular season games on Friday, Aug. 30 and Saturday, Sept. 1.
"Our main focus is getting up for, and physically being ready for the opening weekend," Yeagley said. "The eye right now is that opener on Friday against SMU. "