Love soccer? Watch this.

North Carolina defeats Indiana 1-0 in front of a packed house at the Shindigz National Soccer Festival. Aug. 24, 2013, at Hefner Soccer Complex.

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Big Ten

National Soccer festival

Big thrill for IPFW freshmen

– As the fans trickled in at the Hefner Soccer Fields on Saturday night – about 5,000 of them were there to see national champion Indiana take on North Carolina – they were treated to a nice appetizer.

Valparaiso defeated IPFW 2-1 in a men’s game as part of the Shindigz National Soccer Festival.

“I just had a freshman walk off and say, ‘My heart is still pounding, coach. I’ve never played in front of this many people before,’ ” IPFW coach Mike Harper said.

“It’s a great experience for them.”

Funny that Harper would mention a freshman, since the youngsters are such a theme for the Mastodons right now.

The exhibition slate, which included a 2-0 loss to Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, has been about getting experience for the fledgling players.

“Ohio State is in a different league, but the freshmen showed pretty well there,” Harper said. “We kind of took a step back in the first half here, but they came back.”

Valparaiso took the lead in the 29th minute, when Yannick Iwunze slipped a shot just inside the right goalpost.

The Mastodons answered in the 73rd minute with a goal from freshman Oscar Uyamadu. But it was short-lived; Nick Suker scored the winner for Valparaiso in the 76th minute.

Valparaiso outshot IPFW 17-7, including 5-2 in shots that were on net.

“We played better in the second half,” Harper said. “In the first half, we were trying to break in some freshmen and it showed. We played a lot of bodies tonight, which is good, and we definitely saw some things we need to work on. They put the effort out there in the end.”

For the Mastodons, who went 4-15-1 last season, they hope better things are in store starting with the regular-season opener Friday against Northern Kentucky.

“We’ve got a great group of kids and they’re ready to work,” Harper said. “We’ve got work ahead of us. We had a rough year last year and turned it around at the end. We’ve got a lot of those kids back and we need to take that attitude into this season.”