Indiana’s men’s soccer team will take to the lush fields at Karst Farm Park in about an hour for its first practice of the year. As with every season since Jerry Yeagley first built the Hoosiers into a national power, expectations are high.
I’ll know more after practice, but I think at least half the starting spots are up for grabs as the team begins camp. As I wrote in today’s paper, Mike Freitag hopes to move quickly in evaluating his team. The Hoosiers play an exhibition a week from today against Tulsa in soccer-mad St. Louis, and open the regular season with their annual classic at Armstrong Stadium on Aug. 29 against Duke.
Here, then, is a quick look at some of the players vying for playing time.
- The most intriguing battle will be for the spots up top. Darren Yeagle will look to return to the form he showed before two knee injuries wiped out last year and Kevin Noschang will seek consistency after flashes of dominance as a junior. Michael Roach has had a year to develop but will face competition from highly touted freshman Will Bruin. Redshirt freshmen Alex Purdie showed promise in spring after rehabbing a knee injury all last season, and Neil Wilmarth has a non-stop motor.
- IU is set down the middle with Eric Alexander distributing and All-American (and team captain) Brad Ring doing, well, a bit of everything. Senior John Mellencamp and junior Lee Hagedorn bring subtle creativity to the pitch and Daniel Kelly provides toughness. Billy Weaver has learned to slip into space and make plays. Transfer Cameron Jordan and freshmen Nick Blevins will also be in the mix.
- Ofori Sarkodie has returned and will presumably return to his spot in the middle. Kevin Alston has been versatile throughout his career but will probably end up next to longtime teammate Sarkodie, using his speed on the edge. Freshman Tommy Meyer and Jordan, a junior who played at UCF the past two years, lead an intriguing group that will battle for the other spots.
- No controversy here. Chay Cain is the starter and only a monumental effort by one of the young keepers would change that.