Morris, IU soccer formally start season

The defending national champion IU soccer team took the field for its first practices of the 2013 season on Wednesday and were joined by strength and conditioning coach Tom Morris.

Morris is 15 months removed from the mountain biking accident that fractured his C-6 vertebrae and left him paralyzed. He missed all of last season rehabbing, but joined the Hoosiers in Hoover, Ala., to see them win their eighth national title. Both have a similar mindset entering 2013.

“Really, my intention when I came back was not to be what I was before, but to come back better than I was,” Morris said.

Senior midfielder Harrison Petts, named team co-captain with classmate Jacob Bushue, felt similarly about the Hoosiers, who have three times before won back-to-back national titles — 1982-83, 1998-99 and 2003-04.

“Being an IU soccer player, you always have a target on your back,” Petts said. “I guess this year it’s going to be a little more amplified, but we’re not really focusing on that. We’re really just taking it as a stand-alone season, even though it’s hard not to think about the fact that a couple of the times IU has won, it’s been repeats. It’s in the back of our minds, but we’re just trying to approach it the same way and get better here during preseason.”

Indiana is embracing its rank of No. 1 in the preseason NSCAA and College Soccer News polls, as well as the title of defending national champs.

“I think the team is very much (free),” IU coach Todd Yeagley said. “I think they had a sense of accomplishment, because expectations were so high, but it’s not like, ‘Let’s take the foot off (the gas).’ It’s, ‘Let’s go.’”

Morris, for his part, is doing everything possible to provide the necessary momentum.

“Just because we won a national championship, we’re not going to do just what we did last year, we’re going to keep improving off of that,” he said.