Columbia, Mo.- - The Hoosiers opened their regular season tonight against Kentucky, falling 3-1. The game against the Wildcats is the first of two IU will play this weekend in Columbia, Mo. as the Hoosiers take on host Missouri Sunday at 7 p.m. CST in the Nike Tiger Invitational.
In the first 30 minutes the Hoosiers were outshot by the Wildcats 7-2 but battled back before the end of the half, not allowing a shot on goal and evening their chances at seven each.
"I was very pleased with the first half," said head coach Mick Lyon. "For the first 10 minutes we looked nervous and we weren't very organized. The team struggled a bit with a leg injury to Carly (Everett). In the second 20 minutes we looked a little better and we created a lot of good scoring opportunities."
Early in the second half Kentucky's Keri Boyce gave the Hoosiers a scare, but goalkeeper Shaunna Daugherty was able to stave off the Wildcats attack for the time being. The corner kick following the Boyce shot gave Kentucky many excellent chances to score, but the defensive effort of the Hoosiers held off the Wildcats.
The game was evenly matched through the first half as both teams had seven shots each with the Wildcats having four shots on goal to the Hoosiers' three. Despite the final 3-1 score in favor of Kentucky, the game was evenly matched throughout.
Shelly Gruszka came closest to scoring on the Wildcats when Kristen Sprunger set her up midway through the second half. Kentucky's keeper Liz Butler held off the attack until the 61st minute when the duo came together again, but this time Butler and her defensive Wildcats could not hold them off.
Gruszka came through with the assist from the left side, strategically placing a pass to Sprunger 10 yards out. Sprunger capitalized on the chance, scoring the Hoosiers' first goal of 2002 and their first under head coach Mick Lyon.
"It felt good (to score the first goal of the season)," said Sprunger. "But really it was all Shelly. I was just there to tap it in."
Just four minutes later Indiana's Kristin Limburg was given a red card, thus the Hoosiers would play one player down the remainder of the game. Within seconds, the Wildcats converted on the opportunity Limburg's ejection gave them as Lauren Russell scored and Kathy Fulk assisted to bring the game to a 1-1 tie.
Indiana was forced to go on the defensive at that point and seven minutes later Kentucky scored again on a goal by Kara McCue as the Wildcats drew Hoosier keeper Daugherty out of the net and capitalized on their field player advantage.
The Hoosiers never found the lead - or a shot at it - again. UK's Kathryn Grandinetti followed up the McCue goal to put Kentucky up 3-1 in the 74th minute.
"In the second half we looked great - we came out and scored a goal. Until the red card I thought we were playing confidently. Regardless, the red card gave them energy and put us on our heels. We just gave the game away after that point," said Lyon. "Kentucky played predictably. I thought that we did a good job of handling Keri Boyce. In goal, Liz Butler had two spectacular saves that turned goals into saves - and that was the difference."
Gruszka and Sprunger, the lone scoring duo for the Hoosiers tonight, shared the same sentiments as their coach.
"We had a hard start to the season but we learned a lot. We're really ready to come out against Mizzou on Sunday and prove that the score tonight doesn't reflect the way we played," said Gruszka.
"The team had a lot of heart. We worked really hard. I really believe that this team, whether down or up, is going to give 100 percent," said Sprunger.
Mick Lyon looks ahead to Sunday's matchup with the Tigers with optimism.
"We are a very fit team. I'm optimistic for a good season - we just need to clean up some old habits and make better tactical decisions," said Lyon.
Game time for the Mizzou - IU game is set for 7 p.m. CST on Sunday, Sept. 1.