FORT WAYNE – Indiana mens soccer coach Todd Yeagley is excited about the opportunity in front of his Hoosiers over the next few days.
IU plays Marquette in the Shindigz National Soccer Festival at 7 p.m. today at Hefner Soccer Complex, followed by a 7 p.m. game Saturday against North Carolina. The event features a rabid soccer fan base at the Hoosiers home away from home, he said, as well as top-tier competition in a tuneup for the season.
It really challenges our young players to see how they handle that and certainly helps serve as just a great environment for our returning players, Yeagley said. They love playing in front of those types of crowds.
While in Fort Wayne, the Hoosiers will seek answers to key issues before the season starts.
IU lost top goal scorer Eriq Zavaleta, starting goalkeeper Luis Soffner and center back Caleb Konstanski after winning an eighth national title last season. Those holes will require a lot of work to fill, even with eight returning starters around them.
Zavaleta was a tall, physical forward who allowed for more aerial play in the attack. Soffner will be replaced by an underclassman. And Konstanski will likely be replaced by either some positional switches or a younger player.
Were optimistic, Yeagley said. The nice thing is weve got a nice core of experienced players that are returning that are doing a great job of setting the tone, leadership and knowing what we expect in training. That helps these young guys assimilate really quickly.
Those veterans are excited to get into game scenarios, as well.
Senior midfielder Jacob Bushue said the Hoosiers made progress early in camp and see the festival as a big step toward a ninth national championship.
Marquette is very, very good, and they return a lot of their starters, Bushue said. Itll be a very good test for us to see where were at, and obviously playing against those teams will be very beneficial.
This will be very a important weekend for the season, and I think itll just be a good time to really see where were at and where we have to make improvements for the season going forward.
Yeagley likes playing these types of games early, even if the ones in Fort Wayne dont count for or against IUs record.
Playing North Carolina, which won the College Cup in 2012, will be a measuring stick for how well the Hoosiers stack up against the other elite teams.
Thats what were looking forward to, senior defender Matt McKain said. Teams like that that were going to see in the postseason, most likely. Were just going to use it as a chance to see where we are with our depth at some positions.
Those lessons will help settle competition at three key spots and give Yeagley a better idea of what it will take to get back-to-back titles.
Id much rather see where we are and if things need to be corrected, well be able to see it, Yeagley said.
Well be smart in how we use these games.