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  • John "Mountain" Rice

State Of The Valley Division as of 6/13/2023

The past 1.5 years have been fun to watch the Indy Eleven Woman’s team play. Last year we saw our beloved Girls In Blue win the division after going undefeated. This year, it’s shaping up to be more of the same. While being 6 games in, our ladies have only dropped points once, in a well contested draw against proximity rivals, Racing Louisville in the home opener. Heading into that matchup, Racing Louisville FC obtained the top spot-on goal differential. With the draw that night, the standings remained the same. However, just days later, Indy would head down to Louisville and obtain a 2-0 victory. With the win, Indy would jump 3 points clear into first place. For context, at the end of the 2022 season in the Great Lakes Division, we saw Indy win the division with a 9-point gap. There were also 2 extra matches played last year compared to this year in the Valley division. Only having Racing Louisville on the schedule twice this season, makes the two matchups very important for both clubs.

With both clubs tied on points heading into the match, both knew it was an important one to win. Worst best-case scenario, both clubs split points that night. For the 1,000+ in attendance that night, we saw that exact scenario happen. I fully believe that both clubs thought they could win, and worst-case scenario was for one to win in Indy and the other to win in Louisville. Thus, keeping both sides even on points and letting it come down to the tiebreakers. In the USL W League, tie breakers are as follows: 1- head-to-head, 2 – points per game, 3 – goal differential, 4 – goals scored. All in all, there are 8 total tie breakers. The last one is a USL W lottery draw. It’s rare in sport to see tie breakers go beyond the 1st one set in place. However, for Indy & Louisville, the 2 matches in 4 days were huge. After the first half with Louisville up 1-0 it was looking like we might break it down to the 3rd tie breaker. Assuming Indy would go on to win in Louisville and both continue to win the remaining games on their schedules. Luckily for the fans in attendance, we saw Indy pull it back to level with a goal from none other than the 2022 team leading goal scorer, Katie Soderstrom.

Indy was then headed down to Louisville to play an unstreamed match. It was reported that Maisie Whitsett not only got the goal that broke the 0-0 tie, but also went on to obtain a 2nd goal that gave Indy the 2-0 win on the road. As far as the standings went, this put Indy 3 points clear in first place. Now with most of the division sitting at the halfway point of the season, everyone had a clearer idea of what needed to happen to obtain the sole playoff spot from the Valley Division.

Sitting at the bottom, St. Charles couldn’t afford to lose another game. Kings Hammer needed to do much of the same. Both also needed help from the top 3. Any dropped points from Lexington, Racing Louisville, or Indy Eleven, would tremendously help the cause for both clubs. Most of the help needed for St. Charles & Kings Hammer was to come from anyone facing Indy Eleven. Unfortunately for St. Charles, Lexington came to Indy and saw an early red card for a reactionary flying elbow, which eventually lead to a 2-0 victory for Indy. Now, St. Charles HAD to win every match and hope that Racing & Indy would lose the remainder of the season. Unfortunately for St. Charles, their next matchup against Kings Hammer ended in a draw. At this point, the max potential points are 14, 2 shy of the current division leaders, Indy Eleven. Kings Hammer remains alive due to the low number of games they have played up to this point of the season. Sitting with 5 games remaining, the max potential points for them is 19. As it stands right now, Kings Hammer needs to win out their remaining 5 games & see Indy only obtain 2 points out of their remaining 4 games.

In the top 3, Lexington sits at 7 points, Racing Louisville sits at 10, & Indy sits at 16. Lexington, already sitting at 6 games played, needed to get back on the winning side after their defeat in Indy. Unfortunately for Lexington, Racing Louisville was their next opponent. After a close contested match, Racing Louisville came away with the victory, 2-1. Now, with only 3 games left for Lexington, max potential points being 16, and already lost the first tie breaker to both Indy & Racing, Lexington has joined St. Charles in being eliminated from the 2023 USL W League playoffs.

At the start of the season, everyone following the Valley division had a strong feeling that it would come down to Indy & Racing. Sure enough, coming into the final 4 games, it is exactly that. Again, Kings Hammer is still alive, but their next 2 opponents are Racing Louisville & Indy Eleven. A loss to Racing Louisville, & an Indy Eleven victory over St. Charles will see Kings Hammer join the list of eliminated clubs.

For Indy, what is next? 2 home games in a span of 4 days, one more road game, then ending the season at home. Aside from one final trip to Lexington, Indy will see the same opponents as Racing. First, Indy will face St. Charles this Thursday, 6/15/2023 at grand park. Despite St. Charles being eliminated from the playoffs, it will be interesting to see in person how/if they have turned things around since the 8-0 defeat in the season opener to Indy. The next home match for Indy will be on Father’s Day, 6/18/2023 against Kings Hammer. This will be the first time Kings Hammer has returned to Grand Park since the USL W League inaugural match last year. Earlier this season, Indy went down to Kings Hammer and won 1-0. Then, on 6/22/2023, Indy will head down to Lexington for their final road game & Lexington’s final home game of the 2023 season. This will also mark the 3rd matchup between the 2 this season & the 2nd game in Lexington. The first matchup saw an Indy Eleven 3-0 victory. Lastly for Indy, they end the season at home for the 2nd year in a row. Unlike last season though, fans will have to travel up to Grand Park one last time on June 30, 2023. This matchup will see St. Charles return to Grand Park for the 2nd time in a span of 15 days.

Even with Indy currently sitting 3 points clear of Racing, the task at hand is simple. Keep winning. Keep obtaining 3 points. The same can be said for Racing as well. With no more matchups between the 2, both must win and hope someone else in the division can snag 3 points or at least shared points from the other. I do not claim to be an expert in interpreting the tie-breaking rules, but from what I do understand, Indy would advance on the first (head-to-head.) This is good news for Indy as it means they have SOME wiggle room in results. However, these ladies look hungry for 3 points every time they step foot on the field. Following the home opener draw against Racing, the ladies looked disappointed. They should have won it, a few touches directed a different way, would have seen Indy win that match with ease. They knew it, they felt it. But by the time they left the field to head into the locker room, their spirits were lifted. The Brickyard Battalion, who was in full drum and voice all 90 minutes, continued singing to show their appreciation to the team.

With only 3 home games left, and uncertainty of if Indy will host a playoff game, we encourage you to make your way up to Grand Park. If not for all 3, then at least once. If you are a season ticketholder on the men’s side, check your ticket portal. The club has once again given their season ticketholders free tickets to every woman’s home game. For those that are not season ticketholders, fear not, for you can head over to indyeleven.com/wleague/ for more information on tickets.

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