Top-ranked Indiana did not ace its first test of the 2013 men’s soccer season. But the Hoosiers did earn a passing grade, both from the scoreboard and their coach, in Friday’s opener against SMU.
“It was an OK performance,” IU coach Todd Yeagley said. “We wavered in the ‘B’ range all night. Maybe C-plus at times, on the cusp of A-minus, but it was about a ‘B’ night for us, and it still had some good soccer in it.”
Next up is a more difficult exam against No. 9 UCLA in the final game of the IU Classic, which kicks off at 2 p.m. Sunday at Armstrong Stadium. The match will be televised on the Big Ten Network. Yeagley is optimistic that the lessons learned against the Mustangs will prove beneficial against the Bruins.
“Coming from behind is a great thing for a young season,” he said. “You don’t want to script it that way, but it’s nice. We learned a lot of things the last few years, and we’ve really worked on how to manage the game and situations and emotions. Tonight, our key leaders and upperclassmen got stronger as the game went on and were a steadying influence for us.”
That was particularly true defensively, as freshman Billy McConnell got the start at center back and was victimized on an early SMU goal.
“Billy had a tough start to the game,” Yeagley said. “He’s a freshman. He’s not the first to have that, it’s just when you’re a defender, it’s magnified. I thought he rebounded very well. As the game went on, he got stronger. That was a great example of the older guys saying, ‘Billy, it’s good. Let’s get it going. Let’s go.’ I think he played the last 15 minutes the way we know he can play.”
Meanwhile, the offense came around enough to pull out the victory, even though it had room for improvement in its own right.
“Our rhythm in how to attack certain moments was a bit slow,” Yeagley said. “Sometimes it was very good, sometimes we just rotated the ball to rotate and didn’t seize the right opportunity.”