Aug. 27, 2008
It seems 2007 was another successful season for Indiana Soccer. The Hoosiers posted a 13-4-5 record and won the Big Ten regular season title. In addition, eight players earned All-Big Ten honors.
But for a program that gazes upon seven NCAA Championship banners every time it takes the pitch, that is not enough. The 2008 Hoosiers are hungry to taste the same success of the teams of the past.
Minding the net for the third straight season is senior Chay Cain. A first-team All-Big Ten selection a year ago, Cain has recorded 21 shutouts in his career, including 11 as a junior. He has a career goals-against average of 0.57 and allowed just one goal in Big Ten play last year.
"It is nice to have a goalkeeper with the experience and leadership abilities Chay has," Freitag said. "He is very consistent in his play and also comes up with the big save."
Also competing for time will be redshirt freshmen Michael Munroe, Nate Mitchell and true freshman Luis Soffner.
In the back, IU returns two all-conference picks and has a number of other players that can fill those roles to live up to the program's reputation as a tough defensive team.
Junior Kevin Alston has blossomed in the left back role, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2007.
"Kevin has developed in the last year to the point where I think he will be one of the top defenders in the nation," Freitag said.
After taking the spring to train in Europe, Ofori Sarkodie returns for his junior year and looks to build upon a pair of all-conference seasons.
"Ofori is a proven leader and an outstanding 1-on-1 defender," Freitag said. "To have that experience returning in the back is a big asset to the team this year."
Entering the mix at right back is sophomore Daniel Kelly. A versatile player who also saw action in the midfield, Kelly was a Big Ten All-Freshman selection.
Nick Sutter returns for his senior season after appearing in three matches a year ago. Junior Lee Hagedorn is a player who makes his presence known wherever he is on the field. Tyler McCarroll comes off a redshirt year and may just be the fastest player on the squad.
Freshman Tommy Meyer has the size and skill to make an immediate impression at the collegiate level. Cameron Jordan is a junior transfer from Central Florida. Jordan appeared in 33 matches in his two seasons at UCF and was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team in 2006. Freshman Chris Haffner played along side Meyer at SLUH as both anchored an SLUH defense that allowed just 10 goals in 33 matches in 2007.
There is no shortage of talent in the Indiana midfield, leaving Freitag and his staff numerous options to pick from a pool of both experience and youthful exuberance.
All play in the midfield runs through senior captain Brad Ring. Ring was a unanimous All-Big Ten Selection, NSCAA/adidas second-team All-American and semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy last year.
"Brad is our `hub.'" Freitag said. "He is one of the best ball winners in the college game and is also an outstanding attacking player."
A healthy John Mellencamp returns for his final season after being limited to just 12 matches last year. Junior Eric Alexander is coming off another solid season where he was a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten selection.
Sophomore Andy Adlard made an immediate impact for IU with 19 appearances, while Billy Weaver led the team with seven assists, including three in a victory over Kentucky.
Perhaps the most surprising emergence from last year's team was the play of sophomore Rich Balchan. Balchan recorded four goals and three assists in 16 starts and earned the attention of the U.S. U-20 National Team.
Senior Doug Reisinger is a player who has had to battle through numerous injuries but still plays an important role in the success of this team. Freshman Nick Blevins comes to Indiana as one of the most decorated players in Ohio High School history, and freshman Joe Tolen is an in-state player out of Evansville (Central).
One area that Indiana continues to work on is its scoring power. Last year's team generated 31 goals on 343 shots. The full-time return of the Hoosiers' top-two scorers from 2006 should help the attack.
Junior Darren Yeagle is back and healthy after missing all but nine games in 2007. Yeagle was the 2006 Big Ten Freshman of the Year after leading the team with seven goals.
"Darren can play up top or we can use him in the midfield," Freitag said.
Another player who struggled with injuries last season is senior Brian Ackley. Ackley made 12 appearances but was well off his 2006 form that saw him score seven goals and five assists.
Senior Kevin Noschang became the go-to player up top a season ago, resulting in five goals and second-team All-Big Ten honors. Consistency will be the key for Noschang in his final season at IU.
"Kevin is always a threat with his pace up top," Freitag said.
Sophomore Michael Roach was called upon to contribute immediately and responded with 18 appearances on the pitch, one goal and an assist. Sophomore Neil Wilmarth was the proverbial spark plug off the bench, appearing in 17 matches with a pair of game-winning goals and an assist.
Max Weston redshirted last season and is a player who can push his teammates, Redshirt freshman Alec Purdie sat out last season while recovering from an injury.
One of the most prized recruits in the class of 2008 is freshman Will Bruin. Bruin was the 2007 Missouri State Player of the Year.
"I am excited about the arrival of Will to our program," Freitag said. "He has demonstrated he is a proven goal scorer at every level to this point."
Freshman Tim Wylie was a four-year starter at Carroll (Ft. Wayne) HS. He was a unanimous all-state and all-conference selection as a senior.
As is tradition at Indiana, the Hoosiers will play one of the toughest schedules in the nation. No less than 11 2007 NCAA Tournament teams make up the 18-match slate, with nine games scheduled for Yeagley Field at Armstrong Stadium. Nonconference opponents include Duke (Aug. 29), Akron (Aug. 31), UCLA (Sept. 12), UC Santa Barbara (Sept. 26), Notre Dame (Oct. 16) and Louisville (Oct. 22).
Big Ten play opens on Sept. 21, with Wisconsin. That is the first of three conference home matches, followed by Michigan (Oct. 4), and Northwestern (Nov. 7). Perhaps the most hotly contested game of the Big Ten season comes on Oct. 26, at Ohio State. Last year the two teams played a pair of double overtime scoreless ties.