Indiana women’s soccer begins its 30th season and fourth under head coach Erwin van Bennekom on the road against West Virginia University on Thursday night in Morgantown, West Virginia.
The Mountaineers went 10-5-5 overall and 3-3-3 in Big 12 play in 2021, finishing sixth in the Big 12 out of ten teams. West Virginia knocked off the third-seed Baylor in the Big 12 Quarterfinals before falling short to the two-seed Texas Longhorns — losing 4-3 in penalty kicks after the match ended 0-0.
Like Indiana, West Virginia was left out of the NCAA Tournament field in 2021, snapping a streak of 21 straight seasons in the tournament, the fourth-longest active streak in the NCAA at the time. West Virginia is led by head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown, who has been at the helm every year of the program’s existence and will enter her 27th season.
Even though this is the first time the teams are meeting on the pitch, the Hoosiers are unbeaten in six previous games against Big 12 competition, compiling four wins and two draws, including a 3-0 win at Kansas State last season.
Indiana is 17-9-3 all-time in season openers and began last year with a victory at home against Valparaiso. Indiana is 1-2 in season debuts with van Bennekom as head coach.
Both teams boasted strong goalkeepers last season, as Indiana recorded 10 shutouts, with West Virginia totaling 11. West Virginia senior Kayza Massey started in all 20 matches, conceding only 12 goals while making 52 saves. Her 0.58 goals against average and .813 save percentage earned her a spot on the All-Big 12 Second Team. For Indiana, sophomore Jamie Gerstenberg earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team with an .818 save percentage and a 0.49 goals against average.
Another player on the Mountaineers to look out for is sophomore forward Dilary Heredia-Beltran, who was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team after recording three goals and three assists, while also leading the team with 25 shots on goal.
In his final media availability before kickoff, van Bennekom said the formation for the opener will be a 4-4-2, featuring a new starting eleven.
West Virginia was voted to finish third in the Big 12 this season, while Indiana was picked tenth in the Big Ten poll. First kick is set for 7 p.m. at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium and will be broadcast live on ESPN+.