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August 22, 2013
The quest for No. 9
BLOOMINGTON-Harrison Petts is greedy.
A day before the Indiana University men's soccer team defeated Georgetown 1-0 to win the program's eighth national championship, the Zionsville native tweeted that Saturday was the last day he talked about #Q48, the team's quest for that eighth title.
"Tomorrow," he tweeted, "#Q49 begins."
The team's performance in Hoover, Ala., corroborated Petts's tweet-only a win would bring his statement to fruition. With the victory, IU, a No. 16 seed, culminated its first College Cup berth since 2004 and became the lowest seed to win a national championship.
National titles are the standard for the Hoosiers. Despite losing three-year starter Caleb Konstanski and a four-year starter at goalkeeper, Luis Soffner, the team's goal in 2013 is not altered or ambiguous.
In fact, junior midfielder Dylan Lax said there is an insignificant difference between this preseason and last preseason. For example, last season, IU and Northwestern and IU were picked as co-favorites to win the Big Ten title. In 2013, prognosticators predict the Hoosiers as sole favorites to win the conference crown.
Big time expectations go beyond the conference as the preseason NSCAA Coaches rankings have Indiana at No. 1.
"Of course we have that No. 1 next to us, but we still have that same mentality going in," Lax said. "We know that each team we play, they're coming right at us. We have to bring it right back at them."
IU Coach Todd Yeagley, in his fourth year, said this team features the most competition.
Many players vying for playing time possess a wealth of experience. In four of the five spring season games, at least eight upperclassmen started. That's an invaluable asset as the Hoosiers break in a new goalkeeper to replace Soffner.
"It's really nice knowing that a lot of us who are out there on the field played together and we've played in a national championship together," Lax said. "We know what it takes to get there and we know each other's tendencies, which is really good. … We know what each person is capable of doing, so that's really going to push us to be the best we can in every game."
Indiana also graduated a cerebral leader of the defense in Konstanski.
"Konstanski was a big leader," Yeagley said. "He was a very smart player and he knew where to put players. That, and an experienced goalkeeper with Luis, it's a lot to replace. (Sophomore goalkeeper) Michael (Soderlund)'s got an incredible amount of talent. What he needed was some games and the team to understand where his strengths and weaknesses lie and vice versa. I think they're solving that. They have an incredible amount of confidence in him.
"He's confident and we got some guys pushing him. That's what we need. I don't think we've had as much competition at almost every position as we have now. That's going to make us a strong team."
On the other side of the ball, in 2012, IU posted a 11-1-2 record when sophomore forward Eriq Zavaleta scored a goal. The Seattle Sounders selected the Westfield native 10th overall in the 2013 Major League Soccer SuperDraft.
Junior Dylan Mares, a University of Louisville transfer, will help ease the loss of Zavaleta. The Zionsville native will get one more season to play with former high school teammates, seniors Petts and A.J. Corrado. Mares said the trio talked about that in high school. When Corrado transferred from Southern Methodist University following his 2010 freshman campaign, Mares said it was exciting for Petts and Corrado.
"For me to have an opportunity to come play with them, it's awesome," Mares said. "It's a great thing to be back with my friends and back playing with them. It's going to be fun."
Mares added that he brings a lot of technical ability and fits in well with Corrado and senior forward Nikita Kotlov.
"I'm able to move out on the wings and interchange, which I think is good," Mares said. "For us to go forward, it'll be nice. It's really hard to defend players who interchange a lot. I think that'll be something that will help out a lot."
Mares predicted this year's team will replace Zavaleta's 18 goals with more equilibrium amongst its goal scorers.
"It's something to be said that Eriq (Zavaleta) was a good player," Mares said. "It's a different team this year. I think it's going to be interesting to see how many different players score this year. I think that's something that is going to be different than last year. Eriq scored a lot of goals, and I think this year, I think more and more players are going to score instead of just one in particular."
Femi Hollinger-Janzen will be one of those options. On June 20, he reported via his Twitter that he suffered a knee injury. Yeagley said last week that the Goshen native is not yet 100 percent.
"He did have a clean-up surgery," Yeagley said. "We'll bring him along slowly because he's going to be an important part of our team. We're very optimistic that he'll be full-go here as the season gets going."
Senior midfielder Jacob Bushue is also "back and doing great."
Jamie Vollmer is another experienced player that has an opportunity to win playing time. A junior, the Westfield native redshirted last season, his second year at IU after he spent his freshman campaign at Butler. Though Yeagley admitted he isn't yet sure where Vollmer's minutes will come, but said the midfielder is integrating well with this year's team.
"Jamie's very versatile," Yeagley said. "He brings a different element into our attack with some of his movements. He's incredibly competitive, which fits into our group, really enhances it. He brought to us that last year in training. He's got a bounce in his step. He's going to be back on the field and helping. … Jamie is incredibly dynamic."
Ultimately, Indiana is a program susceptible to losing players to the draft. Regardless of the way last season concluded, expectations vary negligibly for the program.
"We go about things in a pretty systematic way with regards to what success we had or didn't have," Yeagley said. "We always say if our approach is right, then we have a great chance at it. There's 200-some teams that have this opportunity today. It's what we do here, it's how we prepare, it's how we come together as a team that's going to give us the best chance. … The culture is really strong right now. (The) team is really in a good place. That doesn't guarantee anything, but it puts you in a position to be able to get through the waves."