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Big Ten

  • Buckeyes focus on Penn State
    There’s always the danger of a powerhouse looking past a couple of struggling teams to the marquee game on its schedule. But Urban Meyer says that won’t be the case for No. 13 Ohio State at Penn State on Saturday.
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If you go
What: Shindigz National Soccer Festival
When: Thursday-Saturday
Where: Hefner Fields
Teams: Indiana, North Carolina, Michigan State, Goshen, Indiana Tech, Indianapolis, Trine, Anderson, Xavier, Loyola, IPFW, Valparaiso, Marquette
Admission: $5 at Walgreens, 800 Degrees, Connelly’s Do it Best; $7 at gate
IPFW photo
Forward Rachel Good was the IPFW’s second-leading scorer last year as a freshman with four goals and 10 points

Mastodons come back hungry to ‘finish the job’

– They leaned hard on the newbies last fall, which invites a couple of insights about the 2013 IPFW women’s soccer team that aren’t new in the slightest.

One is that last year’s strong finish – the Mastodons went 6-2-1 across the last month and advanced to the Summit League title game – ought to translate to this year’s stronger start.

The other is that they should be wiser now than they were a year ago.

Another thing it taught them: hunger.

“Our freshmen played a lot last year,” says Margaret Saurin, the Summit League coach of the year in 2012. “And with that experience … I know they were happy with the way last season went, but they wanted more out of it. Because they didn’t win I think our kids are hungry to get back there and finish the job.”

The weapons are there to make a run at it. Start with Sam Pavlika back in goal, who made the Summit League All-Freshman Team last year. Ditto forward Rachel Good, the team’s second-leading scorer as a freshman with four goals and 10 points. Fourth-leading scorer Sydney Hoareau, a midfielder from Ontario is back, as is fifth-leading scorer Erin Gill.

Of seven players who scored goals last season, four return. And that doesn’t include another talented freshman class that includes Andi Lazzerini, a forward from Chicago, who scored both goals in a 2-2 exhibition draw with Western Michigan.

“Lot of firing power,” Saurin says of her team. “Lot of speed and versatility. We have some different looks we can give different teams.”

They’ll need that against a schedule that begins Friday against Wright State in the Shindigz National Soccer Festival and includes a Summit League slate beefed up by newcomer Denver, the favorite to win the conference title.

“We’ve got a lot of great depth on the team,” Saurin says. “We’re gonna be able to have fresh legs on the field, and that’s gonna be a strength especially when you play as tough a schedule as we do. I know we’ve got a lot of character on this team, and we’re gonna need that when we come up against some of the tough opponents on our schedule this year.”

Depth, and youth, will be an issue, too, for the IPFW men, who went 4-15-1 last year but finished 4-3 to qualify for the Summit League tournament with a team fully as young as the women’s, if not more so. Nine starters from that team return, including six players who scored 14 of the team’s 17 goals last fall.

“We are still gonna be very young, and we’re gonna be relying on a lot of incoming players again,” says coach Mike Harper, whose team has been picked to finish fifth in the conference and plays a Shindigz National Soccer Festival exhibition Saturday against Valparaiso. “We’re gonna be very new in back. We’re gonna have pretty much a whole new backline. And we’re gonna throw them into the fire.”

Among those Harper will depend on are midfielders Corey Tom, the team’s leading returning scorer with four goals and eight points, Jose Rodriguez, who scored three goals, and senior captain Kyle Ackerman; forwards Austin West and Oscar Uyamadu, a 6-3 freshman out of Oxford, England; and redshirt freshman Raphael Kotzock, a 6-7 goalkeeper from Munich, Germany.

“Definitely his size is an advantage,” Harper says. “We’ve always struggled on crosses and restarts, so being 6-7 he can control the box. He trained with us all last year and he’s solid.”

And the rest?

“Definitely the fight in the kids,” he says, when asked what he likes about them. “Lot of teams would have tossed in the towel last year, but our young boys kept fighting. We had a good run at end of the season, and we’re gonna carry that into this year.”