Known as “the single most important sporting and cultural event in human history”, the Louisville Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest rivalry has been brewing since 2015, with the men’s squad having their fair share of games against Louisville. But on Friday, the women’s squad will get its first taste with the Bluegrass State. According to Head Coach Paul Dolinsky, the rivalry between the two groups is fierce, but he intends to utilize this game as motivation for the girls.
“A game is a game and at the end of the day, you want to win all of them,” Dolinsky said. “I think as we get closer to kick-off, and as we get down there, I definitely think there will be some ways to ramp things up a little bit and motivate the girls a little bit more prior to kick-off on Friday night due to the rivalry.”
A familiar face returning to Louisville is midfielder Grace Bahr. Prior to Indy Eleven, Bahr participated in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) expansion side, Racing Louisville FC’s 2021 preseason camp, and spent most of the season as a training player. She said the opportunity to have trained with Louisville was an incredible learning experience.
“I think when I left, I left with a lot of unanswered questions about myself, and what I want to do with soccer,” Bahr said. “So, returning with Indy Eleven and kind of having a new rivalry within the Midwest is really exciting for not only Indy Eleven, but myself as well.”
Indy Eleven’s most recent contest saw them earn an astounding 6-1 win over Flint City AFC to put them atop the Great Lakes Division Standings and W League Power Rankings. Dolinsky said the success proves the squad is capable as individuals since they put in a long-term collective effort.
“I was thrilled with the way that they defended as a group. I was thrilled with the way that they attacked and got forward as a group,” Dolinsky said. “Hopefully that performance instilled a little bit more confidence in what they’re able to do, and we can build off that.”
Bar said it is an awesome opportunity to bring the intensity and the style of play to Kentucky and see how well they can compete against other talented female athletes.
“And I think with this rivalry, it’s just more on our shoulders. We love being the underdog whether people see that or not,” Bahr said. “It’s something that we really use as inspiration and motivation to add another chip on our shoulders so we can take over the Midwest. And that means checking Racing Louisville off our list. That means going to their home field, showing them what we’re about.”
On the other side of the river, Louisville has faced Detroit City twice this season, both at home and on the road, escaping a 2-1 victory this past Sunday. They, too, come into Friday’s encounter undefeated. One of the most important things to work on, according to Bahr, is maintaining their identity and intensity throughout the game.
“We want to make sure we’re compact on defense and that we expose them in transition,” Bahr said. “It’s going to be all about staying front foot and implementing our style of play, versus trying to adjust to them. We’re trying to be a front foot on the attack transition team, where we just want to be full throttle the whole time.”
Bahr said she is happy with the team’s dynamic with such a strong start to the season. She said building those relationships on and off the field has contributed to their current success.
“I think every opportunity and every practice we’ve had, we’re growing as individuals off the field getting to know each other’s tendencies, quirks, and personalities,” Bahr said. “I know it can be difficult going into a new environment with new people. But every one of these girls has the same aspirations for Indy Eleven and the same aspirations for themselves to continue to grow to become a professional to continue to build a legacy for Indy Eleven and the entire Midwest. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of it.”
In terms of the game plan for Friday’s encounter, Dolinsky said the philosophy is to make as few alterations as possible while still providing a high-quality game that adds to the rivalry.
“They are a very, very good team and from a game plan perspective, we don’t change who we are,” Dolinsky said. “We just make minor adjustments to hopefully be better prepared for what they have to throw at us. But I definitely would like to see us be on the front foot, put them on their heels and be the aggressor in Friday’s game.”