Last season’s struggles were well documented for the Indiana men’s soccer team, which finished 8-12-2. But head coach Todd Yeagley and his team are focused on what’s ahead and not worrying about the past.
“A fresh slate is great. This group is hungry,” Yeagley said. “When you use the previous year one way or the other, whether it’s motivation or you give confidence, the reality is it’s already gone, it’s in the past. There’s nothing that’s going to change our first game (with) what happened last year.”
The Hoosiers officially put the 2013 season behind them with their first practice of the 2014 season on Aug. 13. As they look ahead to the upcoming season, it’s one that will be full of fresh faces.
Ten true freshmen are on the 2014 roster, as well as three transfers – Phil Fives, Matt Foldesy and Will Lukowski. All together, IU has 13 newcomers while returning just three starters.
Yeagley said the team loaded up on the freshman class because of whom it lost after last season. He also expects the newcomers to compete with the returning players.
“We need some of these players. That’s why we brought a pretty back-loaded field group with the ten freshman,” he said. “Would I be surprised to see one or two of those in the lineup or very close to it? No, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Senior defender Patrick Doody is one of many upperclassmen expected to lead the team throughout the transition season. Doody believes the freshmen will have a big impact.
“It’s a totally different group, but it’s really exciting,” he said. “Everyone came in fit, everyone came in sharp. These guys are competing for spots just as much as I am, and I’ve been here for awhile.”
Yeagley also acknowledged the increased competition with the addition of the new players. He said that with everyone healthy, they have true competition.
“We’ve had some returning players, that – I don’t think they ever got comfortable but they didn’t quite have the guy biting at their heels as much as we needed for every position,” he said. “I think this year, we have that in about every spot.”
Having depth and competition at every position will be critical for the Hoosiers, who lost seniors and top-goal scorers Jacob Bushue, AJ Corrado, Nikita Kotlov, Matt McKain and Harrison Petts to graduation and freshman Tommy Thompson to Major League Soccer (MLS).
Redshirt senior midfielder Jamie Vollmer said it’s never easy losing that many starters, but having lots of newcomers helps.
“I think it’s a good thing for us,” Vollmer said. “With a lot of new spots, as you mentioned we’re losing a lot of the seniors from last year, it provides a lot of new competition and keeps everyone hungry.”
With so many new faces, the Hoosiers will be looking to create an identity for themselves. Yeagley said a big identity is “one.”
“We’ve had great team culture and playing for each other,” he said. “But I think this group, everyone is really on the same page and fighting for one another, and I think that component could really take this team someone. So I think it’s a mentally tougher group, and those are some identity pieces that could develop.”
The Hoosiers will face their first competition besides each other with an exhibition against Xavier on Aug. 19. With plenty of competition from newcomers, positions in the starting lineup are there for the taking.
“The upperclassmen have to keep raising their game,” Yeagley said. “If not, then they might find themselves in a different role.”