brtjohns

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  1. Both No. 14 Indiana (1-0-0) and No. 4 Notre Dame (0-0-1) saw five regular starters depart from their 2014 squads, though return seven and six regular starters, respectively. The latter enjoyed the more successful 2014 campaign, finishing the year 12-5-4 after losing to eventual champion Virginia in the third round of the NCAA Tournament as the overall top seed. Led by Bobby Clark in his 15th year as head coach and 2014 Hermann Trophy Semifinalist and ACC Offensive Player of the Year Patrick Hodan, Notre Dame will be more than motivated to walk off Jerry Yeagley Field victorious after dropping last season’s match 1-0 on the same pitch, and again falling to the Hoosiers 2-1 in double overtime this past April in Fort Wayne. The powerhouse rivals have met every year since 2001, battling 13 contests in the regular season and three in the NCAA Tournament. In those 16 matches, Indiana owns the slight advantage in wins at eight to Notre Dame’s seven, as well as in the 23-18 scoring aggregate. Historically, the Hoosiers are 28-8-2 including 14-5-1 at home against the blue and gold. Though both sides avoided the loss column Friday night, it wasn’t a particularly praiseworthy start to the season for either program. Notre Dame escaped No. 13 Maryland unscathed after 110 minutes despite being outshot 22-10 and earning four less corner kicks. A goal from Indiana’s Phil Fives was enough to defeat St. John’s, but the Hoosiers were unable to put away a significantly weaker side given more than enough quality chances to do so. The game will be broadcasted live on the Big Ten Network.
  2. Here are my five bold predictions for Indiana men’s soccer in 2015. I encourage you to comment on what you agree and disagree with plus any bold predictions of your own. Indiana will draw with Notre Dame and lose its first conference game versus Penn State. Both Indiana and Notre Dame saw five regular starters depart from their 2014 squads. The Fighting Irish appear at No. 4 in the NSCAA preseason poll – including one vote for the top spot – after losing to eventual champion Virginia in the third round of last year’s NCAA Tournament as the overall top seed. The powerhouse rivals have met every year since 2001, battling 13 contests in the regular season and three in the NCAA Tournament. In those 16 matches, Indiana has the slight advantage in wins at eight to Notre Dame’s seven, as well as in the 23-18 scoring aggregate. Led by 2014 Hermann Trophy Semifinalist and ACC Offensive Player of the Year Patrick Hodan, Notre Dame will be more than motivated to earn a result on Jerry Yeagley Field after dropping last season’s match 1-0 on the same pitch, and again falling to the Hoosiers 2-1 in double overtime this past April in Fort Wayne. Of course, the Hoosiers will also be amped for arguably the most anticipated and pivotal game on the regular season schedule, so I predict an intense 1-1 draw. Penn State represents not only Indiana’s first conference opponent, also its first true road match. The preseason No. 23 team lost five regular starters from its 2014 group that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but return surefire Offensive Player of the Year candidate Connor Maloney, who, like Grant Lillard and three Maryland Terrapins, participated in the U.S. U-23 College ID Camp after scoring 10 goals and assisting three in his sophomore season. The Nittany Lions were also Indiana’s first conference opponent last season when they upset the Hoosiers 1-0 in Bloomington. Penn State pulled off the upset in 2013, too, defeating Indiana 2-0 in Armstrong Stadium. I expect the trend to continue this year in State College. Indiana will win the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. There isn’t a runaway favorite in the Big Ten this year, though the upper echelon has been clearly defined as Indiana, Maryland and Michigan State. Maryland introduced itself to the Big Ten last season in emphatic fashion by taking home both conference crowns and sweeping Indiana in the process. The Terrapins knocked off the Hoosiers 2-1 in Bloomington then again in the tournament championship as host by the same tally, two bitterly vivid memories that will serve as fuel for Indiana when it looks to return the favor on Oct. 16 in College Park. Maryland won the 2014 regular season title with a 5-2-1 record, the same record with which I predict the Hoosiers finish on top of the regular season conference standings for the first time since 2010. I also expect a rematch in the tournament championship game, this time in Bloomington where Indiana will exact revenge in a nail-biter. Indiana will advance to the College Cup but lose the semifinal. The Hoosiers’ dual conference crown season will establish a convincing argument for the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and provide a relatively easier path to their 19th College Cup appearance in Kansas City than what was presented to them last season. This team is highly talented, experienced and could potentially have excellent depth, but I don’t anticipate seeing the national champion-caliber “it factor” that a team needs to possess to triumph over another zoned-in, elite team in the College Cup, college soccer’s biggest and most mentally demanding stage. Like the 2012 national champions, the 2015 squad will be filled with upperclassmen but the former, following a disappointing regular season, advanced through the postseason with a level of toughness, tenacity and resilience that is uncommon in college soccer. The 2012 team was highlighted by a widely considered top-five player in the country in Eriq Zavaleta and deployed a back five anchored by seniors Caleb Konstanski and Luis Soffner that stifled virtually everything that came their way. I just don't anticipate a similar enough composition in the 2015 group and believe its admirable season will conclude in the semifinals. Perhaps this critique is unfair in the preseason, but anyone who followed the team last year and recognized the inconsistency would also have to question if it owns those three aforementioned qualities at the supreme standard required to be a national champion. Tanner Thompson and Femi Hollinger-Janzen will each register at least 20 points and be selected as NSCAA All-Americans. There’s not much to say that the headline doesn’t. The two focal points of the offense will fulfill their hefty expectations and lead this team to the top of the conference and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. I project at least eight goals and four assists out of Thompson and Femi this season, improving on their 2014 production of six goals with three assists and five goals with two assists, respectively. Indiana will occupy five spots on the All-Big Ten first and second teams, as well as Coach and Midfielder of the Year. First team: Tanner Thompson, Femi Hollinger-Janzen, Grant Lillard Second team: Matt Foldesy, Colin Webb Midfielder of the Year: Tanner Thompson Coach of the Year: Todd Yeagley In 2014, Thompson and Femi were named to the first team while Lillard made the second team and was voted Freshman of the Year. Maryland led the way with five first and second team selections, two of which (MF Mael Corboz and D Chris Odio-Atsem) return.
  3. Thoughts on the first practice… Yeagley: As good of a first session that I can remember in a lot of years. Starting with our fitness, it was very good in the (two-mile) run today and leading into our practice from the sharp play to the energy and just the quality of play. You want energy but you got to have quality and I thought today that combination of both was very good for the first day. Freshmen standing out right now… Yeagley: I like this freshman group a lot. It’s still really early, our first session. There’s no doubt Austin Panchot leading the group in our two-mile just shows how prepared and focused this young man is. He had a very good spring, coming in early. No question Andrew Gutman showed well in his first day. Rece Buckmaster is another example and I thought Jeremiah (Gutjahr) had good moments. Those are just to name a few. So really good start for our freshmen; they’re ready to come in and push. Team leadership and captaincy… Yeagley: I think this is a collection. I think it’s a strength of our team. We talk about balance in our team and I think there’s a balance in our leadership. You need a really, really strong one or a collection, which is the way I like it. If you have two or three and not everyone is quite on board with them then it’s not as effective as the group leadership. I think there’s some young leaders and there’s some guys who have been here like (Kyle) Sparks for quite a while. Femi is really stepping up. That’s been a gradual process for him, coming very organically through time. And there’s no doubt guys like Derek Creviston, Colin Webb, Tanner, Grant Lillard just a sophomore has natural leadership qualities. Foldesy is stepping up in that area. Again, I could name several more, but it’s a collection. Captains...we’re not sure what we’re going to do at this moment. To me, a title does not provide what we need, it’s how you perform and what you do. Respect is earned, not given. We’ll specifically give some roles out moving forward but right now we’re not concerned about that. We’re concerned about the leadership in general, which is good. Importance of first few practices given the short amount of time before the exhibitions and opener… Yeagley: That’s our biggest challenge as a fall sport. We don’t have much time to do all the things that you want to do. You just got to pick your top five or six areas and you got to get big quick to see what it looks like in the game and evaluate as best we can because we have an exhibition in less than a week. Those results are not the end-all and be-all but we got to make sure we’re seeing where guys fit within the depth. A lot of it is an evaluation, and knowing they’re a fit group we can keep our sessions a bit shorter and the time we give off can be adjusted based on that so it allows us to get maybe more into the tactical concepts that aren’t quite as physically demanding but more on the mental side. If the formation will be similar to last season… Yeagley: I feel with Femi and Ben Maurey, the strength and size that they bring to striker gives us a different look, and using Tanner up there situationally I could see us doing. But Tanner is very good at getting the ball deeper and running and scoring from distance. With Femi and Ben’s strength and ability to stretch the field, I see those two as the more likely options, initially. That’s without looking at our whole group; we’re still speculating. We know Femi can play there and be very good at it. His game has made strides. He’s confident. When Femi’s confident and as fit as he is…I expect a really nice season from Femi. On Femi training in Kansas City for a week this summer… Yeagley: I think it’s a validation. You need to be around that level and understand that ‘I can play with these guys’. Not just hold my own but compete and push for a roster situation next January when he’ll get the opportunity. It was the perfect scenario for us. We wanted to throw him into that arena to see how he would do and the feedback from the coaches was excellent. He came back with his chest out a little bit like ‘I know I can do it’, but it also opened his eyes and Femi is as humble as they come. He knows what areas he needs to improve. We say it but you need to feel it, need to see it and need to experience it and that was a great learning curve for him that week. Webb’s improvement since taking over in net… Yeagley: He’s gained experience. He’s gained leadership. He’s seen different situations, and I think with goalkeeping that’s the most important part. That’s why goalkeepers typically get better as they get older. It’s no different in college. Goalkeepers are typically peaking at the end of their time here as we saw with Luis Soffner. It wasn’t year one or two. Colin is moving in that direction. He’s got some great qualities. I feel this goalkeeping core is as competitive as we’ve had since I’ve been here. Colin is going to be pushed and that’s what we want. I think we’re in a good position with our goalkeeping right now. Level of competition at the moment… Yeagley: The competition is making me smile. You get excited because you see what the potential of the group can be, but the what if’s and the tactical adjustments we can make in a game are much greater this year heading in based on what we’ve seen – we’ve certainly scouted our own team – and what we have coming back. The competition...these guys love it and it’s not something that makes them play with anxiousness and nerves. They have to bring it every day. There’s no doubt in some positions – in a lot of positions – that they need to do that. Who might replace Patrick Doody, Jamie Vollmer and Dylan Lax… Yeagley: Phil Fives has had a fantastic spring as a left back. Andrew Gutman can play there, our incoming freshman who I think is as talented as any freshman in the country. So for that position, we have two options we’re looking at immediately. We’re really well-positioned in our wide midfield with the options. Jamie had four years of experience. He was incredibly explosive, had a swagger to him and that throw-in – we don’t necessarily have that but when it comes to positional offerings we’re in pretty good shape. Dylan’s role is the heart and soul of any team. How is your midfield shape, your spine of the team? You can’t replace that four years. Dylan Lax wasn’t that as a freshman. It took him a few years to understand that. But I like the options being presented. Franc Moore, Jeremiah Gutjahr and Rece Buckmaster can play there. Those are the three we’re initially looking for. We’ve also moved Matt Foldesy back there situationally. Jack Griffith played in that role quite a bit last year. It’s going to be a battle. Right now it’s too premature to speculate who’s going to take that reign. Lillard’s growth and participation at the College ID Camp… Yeagley: He’s confident. Grant’s already confident in a really good way. But that, again, is a validation. He, I think, walks away from that as the best back in the group and we got very good feedback from the coaches. Grant’s ready to roll. We’re expecting a fantastic sophomore campaign from Grant. Getting to travel a bit and training with some professional teams, also, to see and feel first-hand the details of what’s important for him to reach the next level and to make us better. It was a good summer for him.
  4. The work is certainly cut out for the Hoosiers to improve on last season’s marks of 12-5-5, runner-up in the Big Ten tournament and a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament – the 28th consecutive appearance and 39th overall. Nine opponents on the 2015 schedule qualified for the 48-team field in 2014, continuing the eight-time national champion’s tradition of facing one of the nation’s toughest. Only three of those nine matches – Notre Dame on Aug. 30, Ohio State on Oct. 10 and Louisville on Oct. 20 – will be played in Bloomington. The high expectations were confirmed after Indiana won four of five against a high quality stretch of opponents in the spring, defeating Indy Eleven, Notre Dame, Butler and the Mexico U-17 National Team in addition to netting two on professional side Louisville City FC. The NSCAA’s preseason No. 14 team contains an abundant supply of talented upper and underclassmen led by seven returning regular starters, five of which started all 22 games. That depth hopes to mitigate the departures of defenders Patrick Doody and Kerel Bradford, midfielders Jamie Vollmer and Dylan Lax, and forward Andrew Oliver, a group that scored or assisted on 24 of last season’s 35 goals. The attack will frequently run through the two members of the 2014 All-Big Ten First Team: senior Femi Hollinger-Janzen and junior Tanner Thompson, who was named to the 30-man MAC Hermann Trophy Watch list on Wednesday after finishing as a semifinalist for college soccer’s top award in 2014. Thompson was selected as an NSCAA All-American after pacing the Hoosiers in points (15) with six goals and three assists, while Hollinger-Janzen contributed five goals and two assists of his own. Incoming freshman Rees Wedderburn, who last played for English side West Bromwich Albion U-21, is also poised to be a key contributor to an offense that ranked 45th in the country and atop the conference alongside Maryland in goals scored and goals per game (1.59) last season. Expect graduate transfer Ben Maurey from Brown University, senior Kyle Sparks, junior Richard Ballard, sophomores Michael Reidford, Brad Shaw and Michael Gallulo, and freshmen Cory Thomas, Rece Buckmaster and Austin Panchot to see substantial time in the middle and final third. The defensive side of the pitch is commanded by junior goalkeeper Colin Webb and reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Grant Lillard, the fifth Indiana player to win the award in the past eight seasons. Lillard is currently training with a select group of top college players at the U.S. U-23 College Identification Training Camp that concludes on Saturday. He also trained with Finnish professional side HJK Helsinki for a week in July, so don’t count on the rising sophomore playing in Bloomington beyond 2015. Senior Matt Foldesy and juniors Billy McConnell, Derek Creviston and Phil Fives, who sat out 2014, are also expected to be staples in the Hoosier defense that looks to improve on last season’s goals against average of 0.96, which ranked 60th in the country and sixth in the Big Ten. Look for sophomores Jack Griffith and Trevor Swartz as well as freshmen Tim Mehl, Andrew Gutman and Jeremiah Gutjahr to challenge for starts in the holding midfield and backline positions. Projected starting 11: Indiana will play three exhibitions – two in Bloomington with Valparaiso and Western Michigan on Aug. 17 and 20, respectively, and the third against Marquette in the ShinDigz National Soccer Festival in Fort Wayne on Aug. 22 – before kicking off the regular season in the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington with St. John’s and Notre Dame beginning on Aug. 28.