IU soccer loses spring season


It was somewhat like having half a spring training for the nationally ranked Indiana University soccer team.

The Hoosiers’ real season may take place in the fall, but the squad also plays a mini-regional schedule of contests in the spring, and coach Todd Yeagley had to wave goodbye to several of them due to COVID-19.

Whatever the effects of school and sports teams being shut down, Yeagley knows there is no reason to believe they won’t be the same for all of the opponents in the fall.

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“Everyone will have a bit of a loss of sharpness and readiness,” he said.

The Hoosiers finished the fall season with a 15-3-4 mark, advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament and were ranked No. 6 in the country.

The spring was for exhibition games against such foes as Loyola of Chicago, IU Alumni, St. Louis and ending with Notre Dame April 17. No long road trips, games all about the coaches evaluating players. IU squeezed in a few of the slated games before the coronavirus shut down all activities with crowds.

“We did get three good games in,” Yeagley said.

The action was valuable to see with his own eyes to judge how returning players may have improved and newcomers might fit in.

“There are a lot of questions you have to see in real life,” Yeagley said. “Against Loyola, we got every player in the game.”

Yeagley has been head coach of one of the country’s most storied programs since 2010. Indiana has won eight NCAA championships, second-most in history to St. Louis.

It was Yeagley’s father, Jerry, who guided the Hoosiers from club program to national power between 1973 and 2003. Jerry Yeagley’s longtime assistant coach, Mike Freitag, succeeded him and was at the helm for the seventh national title. When Todd Yeagley coached the 2012 team to the crown, the Yeagleys became the first father-and-son combination to lead national soccer champions.

IU begins each year with the premise that the year will end with an NCAA tournament appearance and up until now spring practice, while much less heralded than the tradition of spring college football practice, has been an integral part of the preparation.

“We definitely got some good things done,” Yeagley said.

Having the schedule truncated, however, meant the Hoosiers could not maintain as much momentum, and while it is possible for players to retain their conditioning, workouts are never going to be as valuable as game experience.

Playing in front of spectators, even if the size of the crowd is smaller than it would be in a Big Ten game, still somewhat simulates the more important fall competition.

Instead, the IU soccer team entered the virtual world of Zoom, Skype and the like, players scattered to their private domiciles, removed from interacting up close with one another.

“We’re doing everything we can that we’re allowed to do,” Yeagley said in terms of communicating with players and introducing creative ideas to stay in touch, learn and stay in shape.

He spoke of “fun challenges” but also having guest speakers address players through technology, all with the single aim, he said, of “How can we get better?”

Within NCAA parameters and Indiana state guidelines on social distancing, the Hoosiers “have made the best of the situation.”

Whether it has been in the sports realm or classrooms or in most walks of life, that has been the approach and attitude of most of the rest of the world.

Like most other people, not only soccer teams and other sports leagues, the Hoosiers do not know when they will be able to gather again as a group. They also have no idea whether school or the season will start as usual in the fall. A schedule won’t even be finalized until sometime in May.

For now, it is all planning by the seat of your pants.

What Yeagley does believe is that players will work hard to stay in shape so they will be able to respond at a high level of game sharpness quickly if the season begins in September or whenever.

“I don’t think we need a lot of time for us to get that back,” Yeagley said.

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