Bloomington, Ind. - Hoosier women's soccer came together under the direction of first year head coach Mick Lyon to enjoy a season of ups and downs, that in the end satisfied the goals the team set in preseason training camp. With a final overall record of 10-7-2 and the first Big Ten Tournament appearance since 1998, IU has quickly impressed upon conference opponents that success in IU soccer is not limited to the men's program.
"It was a year full of excitement as well as disappointment, but at no point were we discouraged by what was being achieved on the field," said Lyon. "It gives the coaches, returning players and new recuits great promise for the future."
A new coaching staff arrived in early August, just before preseason training was set to begin. Head coach Mick Lyon and assistant coaches Ian Rickerby and Sara Kloosterman were determined to have this be a year to remember. The season started out memorably enough as Lyon and his staff decided to begin preseason as soon as possible, hosting soccer's version of "Midnight Madness," because, as Lyon said at the time, "NCAA rules only permit us to work with the team for a specified number of days before school begins. We are so excited to get this program going that we'll be out there one minute past midnight."
The 2002 Indiana women's soccer season began in the wee hours of August 14 in what has come to be known as "Midnight Madness." It was the first time the program had ever held such an event, fitting with a year of firsts.
Excitement abounded as preseason turned into exhibition competition. When the first game against Valparaiso ended in a 1-1 tie, Lyon was disappointed but not discouraged, saying that, "excellence doesn't happen in one session - we've seen them play at a high level on the training field, now we concentrate on seeing it on the playing field."
The exhibition season continued as the Hoosiers traveled to Ft. Wayne, Ind. for the IPFW Soccer Showcase, facing the host Mastadons and running away with a 6-1 victory. In that game, freshman Kristen Zmijewski became the player to watch as her speed and agility helped her to score two goals.
With the exhibition season complete, the regular season opened at the Nike Tiger Invitational hosted by Missouri. IU opened its season with a 3-1 loss to Kentucky and won the next game of the Invite, against the host Tigers 2-1 in double overtime. Senior Kara Bryan, junior Shelly Gruszka and sophomore Kim Grodek all landed all-tournament honors for their play over the weekend in Columbia, Mo.
The Hoosiers faced their first ranked opponent of the season when they continued their road swing, taking on Cincinnnati. The Bearcats held a 3-1 advantage when 90 minutes were up, making the Hoosiers 1-2 on the season. Not willing to be held down, it was the only time the Hoosiers would have less wins than losses the remainder of the season.
The Hoosiers then went on a four game undefeated streak that was kicked off by a 2-0 win over Xavier. Junior Shelly Gruszka had both goals against the Musketeers, scoring on each of the two shots she took that game. The next game, junior defender Erin Hesselbach score her first career goal on a header against Southeast Missouri State. Indiana went on to a 2-0 victory, the solidifying go-ahead goal coming on a SEMO own-goal.
The Big Ten season got off to a less-than-hoped-for start as the Hoosiers walked away with a 2-2 draw against Wisconsin. Junior goalkeeper Shaunna Daugherty was the stellar player of that game, holding off the Badgers and any offense they could put together to extend IU's undefeated streak to three. The Hoosiers played host to Minnesota two days later, taking a 1-0 win away from the game as Kate Kastl scored her first goal since another game-winner against Utah on Sept. 10, 2000.
"The big thing out of the weekend was that the players really stepped up," Lyon said at the time. "It seemed as though their play said 'I'm proud of IU and I'm going to fight for IU.'"
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The Hoosiers then hit the road, traveling to State College, Pa., to face the No. 13 Penn State Nittany Lions. In torrential rains, the Lions put their No. 13 ranking to good use, scoring three unanswered goals before the Hoosiers could stop the Penn State offense. It was the first time the Hoosiers had been shutout all season and after out-shooting, out-fouling and out-cornering both Wisconsin and Minnesota, the Hoosiers only bettered the Nittany Lions with three saves to PSU's two.
"Overall I would give our team a 'C' grade (against Penn State)," said Lyon. "We succumbed to the pressure of playing a team like Penn State. We are in the process of developing the ability to play under pressure. We didn't respond well to the pressure. The team didn't play with the same enthusiasm as they did (against Wisconsin and Minnesota). We just didn't play with game-intelligence."
The Hoosiers bounced back, however, going on yet another four game undefeated streak. It began with a 3-1 win over Ohio State where Zmijewski scored her first collegiate goal in regular season competition. The streak continued as Indiana hosted DePaul, defeating them 1-0. When Northwestern came to Bloomington, the Hoosiers managed to battle from behind and through double overtime to a 2-2 draw. When the Wildcats scored two easy goals, IU was forced to play from behind and found a way to come back. While a win would have been great, a tie showed that the Hoosiers were not going to go away easily and they were not at all willing to give up.
The Michigan State Spartans came to Armstrong Stadium and stayed through nearly two overtime periods until IU's lone sophomore, Kim Grodek, found paydirt in the 104th minute.
Then Indiana faced off against No. 9 Michigan. The teams played evenly and measured throughout the game, but the Wolverines found a way to score twice, taking the victory and IU's undefeated streak when they returned to Ann Arbor.
With a win over Iowa, the Hoosiers virtually solidified a spot in the Big Ten Tournament. The senior Indiana players had not earned the privilege of playing in the post season in their tenure at IU and were determined to make their dream reality. True to form, the Hoosiers were not willing to settle as they came back to take on Iowa the following weekend, defeating the Hawkeyes 3-1.
After the Hoosiers had guaranteed themselves a spot in the Big Ten Tournament, they did something they had not done all season.
They lost two straight.
On the road in Champaign, Ill., to face Illinois where the Fighting Illini were desperately vying for a spot in the conference tournament. With wins over their final two conference opponents they would make the tournament. The Hoosiers lost a heartbreaker, 2-1. The next game on the schedule was intrastate rival Purdue. The Boilermakers boasted a No. 13 ranking in the NSCAA/adidas national poll. Despite the ranking, the game made its way into the final minutes locked in a 0-0 tie. With just 2:20 remaining in regulation, the Boilermakers got a goal and the win.
The Purdue game marked the close of the Big Ten regular season and neared the end of the regular season for IU. The team traveled to Terre Haute to take on the Indiana State Sycamores. The Sycamores bounced out to an early 1-0 lead, but IU came back on goals from Jenny Mann and Shelly Gruszka.
Then it truly was the end of the regular season and the final game for IU's seniors at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Butler was the foe and Indiana was seeking to enter the Big Ten Tournament on an up-note. A win over Butler would be just that. It was senior day at Armstrong Stadium and three seniors combined for the goal that gave the Hoosiers the 1-0 win. Mann found the back of the net on a double assist from fellow seniors Lisa Tecklenburg and Kate Kastl.
Indiana had a week to prepare for the first Big Ten Tournament game and it would give the Hoosiers a chance for sweet redemption as the Big Ten seedings pitted Indiana against Purdue. The Hoosiers had reached the post season with fervored determination and did not want to go home early. With a win in the first round, an NCAA Tournament berth was possible.
But it was not to be for the Hoosiers. Through 94 minutes of soccer, the Hoosiers and Boilermakers battled until Purdue's Lauren Sesselman - the same player who had scored in the closing minutes in the regular season - found the back of the net to nix IU's NCAA Tournament hopes and prevented them from moving on in the conference tournament.
"This season was the first step in the new evolution of Indiana women's soccer," said Lyon. "In review of what we accomplished, my goal was to take a nice small step forward and I think this team took a significant stride, due in large part to the efforts of the team, particularly of the senior class. Their self motivation to be competitive and constantly improving is outstanding. Next year we need to maintain the forward motion and take an even bigger stride."