The Indiana men’s soccer team wraps up the regular season and conference play at home against Big Ten rival Michigan State tonight, with lots at stake.
The No. 2 Hoosiers face the No. 21 Spartans at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Bill Armstrong Stadium on Senior Night.
”It’s another big game, and it happens to be the last regular season home game,” IU head coach Todd Yeagley said. “We want to be at home more this year, and it looks like that scenario will be there. Most importantly, we want to have a big night and it happens to be senior night.”
A win for the Hoosiers would earn them three points and give them 14 overall in the conference standings. However, they’re going to need more than just a victory of their own tonight.
Maryland faces Rutgers today, and the Terrapins can win their first Big Ten regular season title with a victory over the Scarlet Knights. A Rutgers win would leave Maryland at 13 points, leaving Penn State at the top of the standings with 15 points. IU would finish second.
To finish second in the Big Ten regular season standings, IU would also need wins from Michigan and Wisconsin.
With all the different scenarios, the Hoosiers could finish anywhere from second to fifth in the Big Ten by the time all of the games finish Wednesday night.
It’s a bizarre scenario, but it’s not unusual for IU players like senior defender Patrick Doody. Doody specifically recalled a game from his sophomore year against Northwestern which presented a similar scenario.
”We had a chance to win the conference on the finale against Northwestern, and we tied,” he said. “I think we ended up being fourth in the conference or something weird. So it was kind of bizarre how that worked.”
Yeagley has also experienced comparable situations like the one Wednesday. However, he said that he and the coaching staff have been telling the players not to worry about the standings.
”Every year, it’s crazy how the these games come down to (the) last (game),” Yeagley said. “It shows the strength of our confidence, that’s the bottom line. I told the guys, we’re not really focused on where we finish right now, it’s just that this is an important game for us.”
To earn the three points and potentially finish second, IU will have to get past Michigan State junior goalkeeper Zach Bennett. Bennett is second in the conference with the lowest goals allowed against average at .67.
”He’s a good goalkeeper, no doubt,” Yeagley said. “He makes plays, he’s athletic. We have I think the best goalies in the country in our conference, and that shows with how the conference is doing and it shows with their stats.”
On the other side of the field, the Spartans have one of the most balanced attacks in the conference.
Three different players – junior defender Zach Carroll, junior midfielder Jay Chapman and junior midfielder Jason Stacy – are tied for the team scoring lead with four goals each. Stacy also leads Michigan State in assists with seven.
”They got a really good attack,” Doody said. “It’s going to be a challenge. You don’t have any time to take a break because they can hit you with different pieces. That’s mentally draining, that’s physically draining, so our team pressure has to be sharp tomorrow night.”
The Spartans are ranked No. 19 in this week’s NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), the eighth Top-25 RPI team the Hoosiers will have played this season.
”We just need to focus on having a good performance,” redshirt senior midfielder Dylan Lax said. “Taking that, and taking it into the Big Ten tournament and running with it into the NCAA Tournament. I think a good performance will be good tomorrow for this team, and we’re looking forward to it.”
With all the events surrounding Wednesday’s game – Senior Night, the other conference games that night, the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament Sunday – the Hoosiers are focused on just one thing: getting a good result.
”It (the standings) really doesn’t matter,” Doody said. “No matter what team we play Sunday, it’s going to be a challenge. All we’ve got to worry about is playing our best (Wednesday) night.”