With its preseason slate complete, the Indiana men’s soccer team turns its attention toward a pair of top-15 teams as it begins the regular season.
“It’s always a challenge,” junior forward Andrew Oliver said. “We always make sure we get a good preseason team to play against. Always want to test our limits from the start.”
The Hoosiers will kick off the regular season this Friday with the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic against No. 9 Georgetown at 8 p.m., a rematch of the 2012 NCAA Division I title game. Two days later, they’ll face No. 12 Marquette at 2 p.m.
Both the Hoyas and Golden Eagles were tied for preseason favorite to win the Big East. Both were also tournament teams who advanced to the third round last season.
The classic weekend also carries more added significance, in that 25 times a team playing in the classic has gone on to play in the College Cup. The most recent team was Notre Dame, which did so in 2013.
“That’s why we get 6-8,000 fans at our games for these openers,” IU head coach Todd Yeagley said. “They know that these are teams that are going to be fighting to the end.
“It’s a great stat. We do, we schedule really difficult and we’ll continue to do that with this tournament. We’d rather know where we are early than get a false sense.”
IU is coming off a 1-0 win over No. 6 Washington at the ShinDigz National Soccer Festival in Fort Wayne, Ind. last weekend, while Georgetown tied 1-1 with Virginia. Marquette played to a 2-2 overtime tie with Wright State on Aug. 24
Freshman defender Grant Lillard said the Hoosiers are confident coming off a win against a Top-10 team.
“We think we have a really good team here this year,” Lillard said. “The Xavier game, we feel we were a little unlucky after that game . . . but against Washington, we really worked well together and put a full 90 (minutes) together.”
Lillard is one of 13 newcomers hoping to crack the starting lineup. And with only three returning starters, spots in the starting lineup are still up for grabs.
Oliver is one of those three returning starters. As of Wednesday, he and the other players didn’t know exactly who would be starting this Friday or Sunday.
“You know, we don’t talk about it much,” Oliver said. “We leave that up our coach and we do what we can, but things will fall into place. A set lineup is still coming.”
Yeagley didn’t offer specifics on the lineup, only saying that there are two or three spots players are still fighting for.
“We’re getting there,” he said regarding the lineup. “It might be just where we put guys wide, where we put some guys in the scheme might be where we think they can impact the game more. I feel if we can interchange and know each others’ roles as we get going with this group, then it allows us to be more flexible . . . We have more answers than questions than we did at the start of preseason.”
While there’s uncertainty with IU’s lineup, the same cannot be said of Georgetown and Marquette’s.
Leading scorer Brandon Allen returns for the Hoyas after recording 11 goals and five assists as a sophomore last season.
Marquette also returns its leading scorer in C. Nortey, who notched 10 goals last season.
Similar to their matchup against Washington, the Hoosiers will be up for the challenge.
“Our players love it,” Yeagley said. “This is one of the best weeks of their year, just heading into the opener with the competition we have and a new week of school. It just makes for a special weekend.”