INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -
The Indiana Hoosiers (7-3-2) defeated the Butler Bulldogs (5-5-2) on Wednesday night thanks to a second-half strike from forward Eriq Zavaleta. The win ends a three-game losing streak for the 18th-ranked Hoosiers, who also record their first shutout since September 23.
"It was a great atmosphere tonight," said head coach Todd Yeagley. "We weren't at our best tonight. We had stretches where we were good, but our connection was off and our combination play in critical spots was a bit sloppy. We didn't play with the conviction we needed.
"We need players to step up and make great plays, and that was Eriq tonight. He is a confident kid."
Jamie Vollmer nearly opened the scoring for Indiana against his former team in the first minute, taking a touch at the top of the box and ripping a strike on goal, forcing Butler goalkeeper Jon Dawson to palm the ball over the crossbar.
It was one of seven first-half shots for the Hoosiers, who were a constant threat early.
Chris Estridge looked to join the attack from left back, beating three Bulldog defenders at the top of the box in the 7th minute, only to have his shot blocked.
Alec Purdie thought he had won a penalty for Indiana ten minutes later, latching onto a through ball from Harrison Petts and falling to the turf as he rounded Dawson, but referee Jorge Cuate was content to call for a corner kick.
Vollmer and Estridge were all over the field for the Hoosiers, contributing offensively and defensively as the visitors looked for a breakthrough.
It almost came via Purdie in the 28th minute, whose tremendous half-volley from 16 yards was matched by an equally fine save by Dawson, who punched the ball away at the far post.
Despite dominating for 45 minutes, the Hoosiers went into the break scoreless as they looked to get back on track in front of a rambunctious, record crowd of 3,343.
Vollmer came close again in the 53rd minute, receiving a pass from Purdie on the left side of the area and driving a hard shot towards the bottom right corner, where Dawson dove to collect.
Jacob Bushue provided a much-needed physical presence for the Hoosiers in midfield, breaking up several counterattacks as Butler tried to break the deadlock.
The Bulldogs were having trouble dealing with Zavaleta's size up top, whose rising shot went just over the crossbar from 35 yards in the 65th minute after a neat turn away from his defender.
Indiana finally got off the board in the 85th minute after a brilliant run from Estridge. The defender blazed past two Butler defenders along the left sideline and crossed to Zavaleta, who faked inside and took a touch towards the end line, blasting a shot off of the inside of the near post from six yards to stun the Bulldogs as Dawson could only stand and watch.
"Chris made a great play," Zavaleta said. "I told him I was going to be open throughout the game, and he found me inside the box."
Purdie nearly doubled the advantage two minutes from time on the counterattack, powering a shot over the crossbar from 25 yards as the Butler defense closed in.
Indiana's defense was resilient the whole game, keeping the Bulldogs in check to record their fifth clean sheet of the season.
"Shutouts are key," defender Tommy Meyer said. "Avoiding mistakes gives you opportunities to score up top, and it all starts from the back."
The win puts the Hoosiers in the right frame of mind to face Michigan on Saturday, October 15 at 7 p.m. in Ann Arbor.
"It's definitely a relief," Meyer said. "We were waiting for a goal the whole time, and the win gives us confidence to be ready for the next game."