Aug. 26, 2004
A new chapter in Hoosier lore will begin with the start of the 2004 season. Gone is 31-year head man and six-time National Coach of the Year, Jerry Yeagley. College soccer's all-time winningest head coach turned over the reins of the program to 11-year assistant and former Hoosier All-American Mike Freitag.
The Hoosiers return nine starters and 16 letterwinners from last season's national championship team. Over the final 18 matches of the 2003 season, Indiana was unbeaten, compiling a record of 15-0-3. The expectations will remain high for the Hoosiers as Indiana was ranked No. 1 in College Soccer News preseason poll for 2004.
"As a coach, I am blessed with an outstanding group of players to work with," Freitag said. "They are talented and have their priorities in order. The key to our success last year was our team chemistry and the willingness for everyone to put team first, and I expect the same from this group this season."
In addition to the 16 returning letterwinners, the Hoosiers welcome back a pair of starters from the 2002 squad in junior Mike Ambersley and senior Josh Reiher. Both sat out the 2003 season.
Despite losing leading scorer Ned Grabavoy (11 goals, 11 assists) to Major League Soccer (MLS), the Hoosiers return a youthful lineup that paved the way for the magic run last season.
"Goalkeeping will be a strength for this team," Freitag said. "We have perhaps the strongest goalkeeping crops that we have ever had here at IU. That starts with our returning starter in Jay Nolly. He proved last year that he is one of college soccer's premier goalkeepers. I look forward to him having an outstanding season during his senior season."
The Hoosiers also return junior Drew Moor, a first team All-Big Ten selection in 2003. He was also named to the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy Watch List at the start of the 2004 season.
The Hoosier defense put up impressive numbers in 2003. Indiana led the Big Ten in nearly every defensive category. The Hoosiers ranked fifth in the country in team goals against average and 29th in shutout percentage.
"Defensively, even though still young, we return an outstanding core of defenders," Freitag said. "(Moor, Zayner and Dieterle) provide a solid defensive unit coming back. They also give us the ability to play out of the back, probably better than we have ever had at IU."
"Danny is perhaps the best ball winner in college soccer. Through his tenacity and work rate, he tears the heart out of opponents," Freitag said.
Sophomore Josh Tudela and junior Brian Plotkin return to the central part of the Hoosier midfield after helping the Hoosiers win the national title. Tudela and Plotkin both were among the Hoosiers' leaders during the postseason. Tudela was named to the College Cup All-Tournament Team.
Plotkin was the Hoosiers second-leading scorer in 2003. He finished the year with 23 points on seven goals and nine assists. Along with O'Rourke, Plotkin was named a Preseason All-America selection by College Soccer News as he garnered third team accolades.
"Josh Tudela and Brian Plotkin along with Danny (O'Rourke) give us a strong middle of our team," Freitag said. "Brian is a player that should be considered for national player of the year honors. Josh was a great addition to our team last year. He may have been one of our best players during our final run at the end of the year. "
The Hoosiers have a solid number of players who will be fighting for playing time wide in the midfield. Those players include sophomore John Michael Hayden, junior Jordan Chirico, redshirt freshman Charley Traylor, senior Josh Reiher, sophomore Kevin Robson and junior Pat Yates.
Peterson put together an exceptional freshman campaign, ranking third on the team in points with 19 on seven goals and five assists. He established himself as a starter early in the season, making 21 starts and playing in all 25 games for IU.
"Jake Peterson proved that he was one of the premier freshman forwards last year," Freitag said. "We expect an outstanding sophomore season out of him. Jake had the ability to score big goals as well as create them for others."
The Hoosiers also will have a welcome addition back in Ambersley. After sitting out last season, Ambersley returns to the Hoosiers with two years of eligibility remaining. He is a proven commodity for the Hoosiers having started 37 matches and playing in 41 during his first two years at IU.
"I am also excited about the return of Mike Ambersley to Indiana this year," Freitag said. "Mike is a proven starter. He is an outstanding passer, who we welcome back with open arms."