Big stage for Big Ten rivals at College Cup #iums

When the NCAA Tournament draw came out almost four weeks ago, Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski and Indiana coach Todd Yeagley both texted with the same reaction.

“Let’s see each other in Santa Barbara,” they said.

The Terrapins (11-6-4) held up their end of the bargain early last Friday night with a 1-0 win over Kentucky, and the Hoosiers (20-2-1) followed suit an hour later with a 1-0 win over Notre Dame, setting up Friday night’s second national semifinal at Harder Stadium in Santa Barbara, Calif. They’ll kick off at approximately 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, following the first semifinal at 8 o’clock between Akron and Michigan State.

It will be the third meeting of the season between top-ranked Indiana, the No. 2 overall seed, and No. 15 Maryland, the No. 11 seed. The Hoosiers won the regular-season meeting in Bloomington, 2-1, on an Andrew Gutman goal with 18 seconds left, and the two teams played to a 1-all draw in the Big Ten Tournament before IU advanced on penalty kicks.

Another hotly contested match is likely to unfold.

“We expect another great Indiana-Maryland classic matchup,” Cirovski said. “Every time we’ve played it’s been either a tie, overtime or a one-goal game. We’ve had a history with Indiana, even before we joined the Big Ten. Last time we played Indiana in the College Cup was in California in 2004, a 3-2 double overtime loss. I haven’t forgot that one.”

The Hoosiers say playing for a third time isn’t a factor that favors either side.

“I think the advantages are you kind of understand how they want to play us,” IU co-captain Frankie Moore said. “And at the same time the disadvantages are they know how we want to play them. So at this point in the season, you’ve got to do whatever you can to win. Both teams know each other really well, and we each know our strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully on the day we’ll be better, we’ll be sharper and the outcome will be in our favor.”

Yeagley agrees.

“The reality is once these guys get across the white line, it’s the semifinals,” he said.

Still, the win earlier this season was IU’s first against Maryland since the latter joined the Big Ten, perhaps a mental hurdle cleared. The Terrapins have been one of this century’s most frequent visitors to soccer’s final four, this marking their eighth appearance but first since 2013, so the Hoosiers are more than aware of the challenge in their NCAA record 20th College Cup.

“Maryland, ever since they’ve come in the Big Ten, have been a thorn in our side, especially the first few years,” said Moore, who has battled nagging injuries but expects to be ready to play tonight. “We know the Big Ten championship always goes through them, and clearly this year the national championship also goes through them.”