After a long weekend on the road, the Purdue women’s soccer team prepares to host longtime rival Indiana University.
The Boilermakers (5-3-3, 0-2-2 Big Ten) have not lost to IU since the arrival of head coach Drew Roff and senior defenders Hannah Mussallem and Dannah Williams in 2015. Mussallem hopes that a win on Saturday will be a “turning point” for the season.
Roff also expressed hope for the outcome of the match.
“If we can get that game where we perform at a high level, we get a result, and it’s against our biggest rival,” he said. “That’s one great way to really start turning some things around and turn the corner.”
The squad is currently winless in the Big Ten, coming off a tough 0-1 loss at Nebraska. Roff attributes this downturn to a difficulty with goal-scoring and a few costly defensive mistakes.
“When you’re not scoring goals, there’s obviously no margin for error,” he said.
Mussallem chalked the trend up to the relative inexperience of the younger players against such high-profile competition.
“The first and second year is kind of the struggle year, and I think it’s kind of showing right now, but in the next year or two, they’ll be where they need to be,” Mussallem said.
Despite her teammates’ inexperience, the senior defender considers the youth of the team to be a blessing, noting the valuable experience the freshmen will gain over their playing careers. She also praised the consistency of the sophomore players, saying they are “performing really well.”
During team practices, Roff stressed the need for more intuitive play in the goal area.
“When you start overthinking things ... there’s no fluidity in the attack,” he said.
He also called for more aggressive offense, saying, “We can’t be afraid to take shots. We can’t be afraid to take players on. We can’t be afraid to try something in the final third.”
Roff believes that this improvement, coupled with the team’s already strong defense, will improve the Boilers’ performance. He and Mussallem also hope that the return of senior Dannah Williams will ignite some spirit and presence back into the team.
Since the team has entered conference play, the number of starting freshmen has decreased from eight to as low as five players in the Boilers’ match against Iowa on Sept. 20.
Both Roff and Mussallem attribute this decline to the onset of such tough competition, but Roff doesn’t believe that such a decrease is the reason behind their recent performance. He explained that the team made the change so they could lean more on the older players, who have experienced the conference season before.
In addition, Roff cited the difficulty of Big Ten competition as a factor in the performance. He described the Big Ten as “a grind of a league” and noted, “in conference play, everyone is fighting for everything for the full 90 minutes.”