Aug. 27, 2009
The Indiana University men’s soccer team will kick off its 37th varsity season looking to build upon last year’s campaign. In 2008, the Hoosiers advanced to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinal round for the first time since 2004 and will return 12 letterwinners from that squad.
One area where the team will be breaking in a newcomer is in goal. Gone is All-Big Ten and three-year starter Chay Cain, and a redshirt freshman and sophomore, along with a senior transfer, will battle to fill the void.
Redshirt freshman Luis Soffner and sophomore Nate Mitchell have not seen a minute of action in a regular season match but both honed their skills between the pipes in the spring season and either could take over the role.
Also thrown into the mix is senior transfer Nemanja Kostic. Kostic comes to Bloomington from the University of Maine.
“I feel the competition will bring out the best in each of them and will make us strong at this position,” head coach Mike Freitag said.
Last season IU went with a four-back set, but with the departure of outside back Kevin Alston to the MLS, Freitag believes the 3-5-2 formation best suits his current personnel. Leading the way is senior Ofori Sarkodie, flanked by junior Daniel Kelly and sophomore Tommy Meyer. Sarkodie is a two-time All-Big Ten selection, while Meyer was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team in 2008 and Kelly in 2007.
“I am very confident in the group of guys we have back here,” Freitag said. “All are very athletic and competent on the ball.”
In addition to experience, Indiana also has depth at the defensive position. Redshirt freshman Chris Haffner had a year to adjust to the college game, while freshman Caleb Konstanski saw significant minutes in the spring after graduating early from high school and enrolling in January at IU. Cameron Jordan brings experience from his time at Central Florida.
Joining Konstanski in the freshman class are Sam Swihart and Matt Wiet. Both have shown in their youth competitions that they are capable of competing for time on the field, with Wiet recently earning an invitation to train with the U.S. U-20 National Team.
Taking over as the defensive general in the middle is junior Rich Balchan. Balchan has been a key contributor for Indiana since midway through his freshman year and has blossomed into one of the top players in the country. Senior Eric Alexander, a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2008, moved out wide last season but could also see time in the middle.
In the other wide spot is senior Lee Hagedorn. Hagedorn has spent time all over the field during his career but has shown to be effective getting forward while also tending to his defensive responsibilities.
Coming off a breakthrough season and continuing to make a name for himself at attacking mid is junior Andy Adlard. An All-Big Ten pick last year, Adlard led the team in goals, assists and shots as a sophomore. Jordan could also see time in the middle of the field, along with redshirt freshman Nick Blevins. Sophomore Tyler McCarroll can give opponents fits on the left side. Junior Alex Boler joined the team in the spring and adds bite in the midfield. Redshirt freshman Joe Tolen has also made great strides in his game and is another option for Indiana in the middle.
New to the squad this year are freshmen Graham Basecke and Kevin Bick. Basecke led his team to the Missouri Class 3 state title game as a senior, while Bick is a two-time NSCAA/adidas Boys High School All-American.
Returning from a solid rookie campaign is sophomore Will Bruin. Bruin earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors a year ago after putting home six goals and starting 24 matches. Also up top is redshirt sophomore Alex Purdie. Purdie took to his role in the attack during the spring season to form a formidable combination.
The firepower is not limited to those two when Freitag turns to his bench, beginning with junior Neil Wilmarth. Wilmarth is a key component to the IU offense. Senior Darren Yeagle is finally healthy after battling injuries for much of the last two years.
Another player that can float between the midfield and forward positions is redshirt freshman Tim Wylie. Newcomer Ian Block will also have a chance to prove his worth in the attack.
“I am very excited about the 2009 squad,” Freitag said. “I believe it has the ability and the character to have a very successful year.
As is tradition at Indiana, the Hoosiers can once again lay claim to one of the toughest schedules in the nation. No less than 10 of Indiana’s 18 opponents competed in last year’s NCAA Tournament, with six of those teams finishing in the RPI top 10.
Regular season play begins with the annual adidas/IU Credit Union Classic. The Hoosiers will be tested early, facing 2008 NCAA College Cup participants St. John’s (Sept. 4) and Wake Forest (Sept. 6). That is followed by two straight weekends on the road to match up against New Mexico (Sept. 11) and Seattle (Sept. 13) at the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament in South Bend, Ind., with a trip to Akron to take on the Zips (Sept. 18) and Florida International (Sept. 20).
Big Ten play begins on Sept. 25 at Wisconsin against former IU assistant coach and player Todd Yeagley. A home match with regional foe Kentucky (Sept. 29) is followed by a trip out west to take on UC Santa Barbara (Oct. 2. In-state derbies with Butler (Oct. 7) and at Notre Dame (Oct. 14) sandwich a trip to Michigan on Oct. 10.
The Hoosiers play host to defending Big Ten champion Michigan State on Oct. 18, followed by back-to-back road trips to Louisville (Oct. 21) and Northwestern (Oct. 25). The regular season ends with three straight home matches against Evansville (Oct. 28), Ohio State (Nov. 1) and Penn State (Nov. 6).
Jerry Yeagley Field at Armstrong Stadium will be the site of the Big Ten Tournament, Nov. 12-15.