First day of IU soccer practice #iums

The No. 14 Indiana men’s soccer team took to the pitch for the first official practice of the 2015 season on Wednesday morning with the annual two-mile run that caps the preseason fitness training officially in the rearview mirror (won by freshman Austin Panchot, for the record). Here are some other notes, quotes and observations from practice:

• Sixth-year head coach Todd Yeagley was thrilled with what he saw in the opening practice. “I thought that was as good a first session as I could remember in a lot of years,” Yeagley said. “Starting with our fitness, it was very good in the run today, and leading into our practice from the sharp play to the energy and just the quality of play. You want good energy, but you have to have quality, and I thought today the combination of both was very good for a first day.”

• What Yeagley liked also included the freshman class, starting with Panchot. “I like this freshman group a lot,” he said. “It’s early, it’s our first session. There’s no doubt that with Austin Panchot leading the group in the two-mile, it just shows how prepared and how focused this young man is. He had a very good spring coming in early. No question Andrew Gutman showed well in his first day, along with Rece Buckmaster, another example. I thought Jeremiah (Gutjahr) had good moments. Those are just to name a few. Really good start for our freshmen. They’re ready to come in and push.” Yeagley later said he felt Gutman was “as talented as any freshman in the country.”

• Forward Andrew Oliver was not with the team and is not listed on the team roster. Oliver left IU last spring to take care of some academic issues, according to Yeagley.

• One of the candidates to fill the forward role, which has been a challenge in recent years for the Hoosiers, is Brown grad transfer Ben Maurey. Maurey is listed at 6-foot-5, although he didn’t appear any taller than 6-4 center back Grant Lillard (perhaps he’s grown), but still is one of few players capable of rivaling Lillard’s size. Maurey appeared active and agile during the part of practice I saw. Having bookend big guys could prove a real boon to IU’s prospects this season, especially on set pieces.

• Junior goalkeeper Colin Webb is the only returnee among the five goalkeepers Indiana had on the roster last season. He is joined by IUPUI transfer Christian Lomeli and freshmen Sean Caulfield and Cody Jewett, but Yeagley likes the group. “I do feel our goalkeeping corps is as good as we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “Colin is going to be pushed, and that’s what we want. I think we’re in a good position with our goalkeeping.”

• Indiana spent most of last season in the top 10 in the polls and even hit No. 1 in the RPI. And while rankings aren’t a concern, getting to No. 1 and staying there remains the primary focus according to senior forward/midfielder Femi Hollinger-Janzen. “We had a very good team last year, and they set a standard, so to reach that No. 1 ranking spot and hold that, just play as good as that team did, if not better,” he said. “We need to play better, and that will definitely be the goal.”

Read more in Thursday’s edition of The Herald-Times.