IU soccer advances to national title game

CHESTER, Pa. — Score one for maturity and 18 for the defense.

The second-seeded Indiana University men’s soccer team maintained its composure long enough to find a single goal and that was more than enough for the Hoosiers to finish the job with a school-record tying 18th shutout in a 1-0 win over third-seeded North Carolina in the semifinals of the College Cup Friday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

The shutout ties the IU 1979 team record and ties freshman goalkeeper Trey Muse for the NCAA individual shutout record in a season.

As a result, Indiana will take on two-time defending champion Stanford (18-2-2) in Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship game, as the Cardinal knocked off Akron, 2-0, in the first semifinal.

The second semifinal was a game where the Tar Heels (17-4-1), making their second straight final four appearance, were in control early, but the failure to cash in proved costly as IU relied on its experience to steadily find a foothold and largely take control late in the first half.

“It just took us a little bit to grow into the game,” IU senior captain and center back Grant Lillard said. “We held them to a few chances, and as we grew into the game we became more comfortable and were able to find the middle more and rotate it.
“It was just weathering the storm, and as we grew into the game we were more effective.”

North Carolina was the effective side early, but even when the Tar Heels possessed the upper hand, they seemed reluctant to pull the trigger against the Hoosiers’ disciplined defense.

“I felt throughout the game we were a little hesitant,” UNC coach Carlos Somoano said. “We chose to pause and they got us to pause. It almost felt like one of those games where we weren’t going to let loose until they scored, tragically.
“The spaces were tight and with their defensive record there’s a reason for that. When they close the spaces up you can’t hesitate or think twice and that’s when we paused. Once you pause you’re at a disadvantage with a team like Indiana.”

The most glaring example came midway through the opening frame when a defensive mistake near midfield opened up the left side of the field for a near breakaway by the Tar Heels. However, instead of forcing Lillard to make a decision or attack goalkeeper Trey Muse from a sharp angle, North Carolina held up just long enough for Rece Buckmaster to back track and force the ball out of the box.

“It’s a maturity in soccer where you just keep the ball moving instead of hesitating,” Somoano said.

The Indiana offense didn’t collect its first shot of the match until less than 10 minutes remained in the opening stanza, as Cory Thomas hit one easily saved from the top of the box.

Less than two minutes remained in the half when the Hoosiers nearly went in front on a one-timer by Trevor Swartz that required a diving save from UNC goalkeeper James Pyle.

“We know in critical moments our guys are going to do the right thing and having that confidence allows us to keep composed, doesn’t freak us out if we don’t start a game how we wanted,” Lillard said.

Heading to halftime, Indiana (18-0-6) had begun to assert itself, a trend that would continue when play resumed.

The Hoosiers didn’t hesitate to press their advantage either, earning their only corner kick of the match in the 50th minute.

Swartz took the attempt from the right side and sent an in-swinger to the back post. Pyle appeared to misjudge the ball, and it sailed over his head to a waiting Andrew Gutman at the back post for the simple finish and a 1-0 lead.

“We knew going in we had a good size advantage over UNC,” Swartz said. “All my job was to get the ball in the air, get some air underneath it, and luckily Andrew made a good run and found the back of the net.”

It was the payoff for many hours after practice for the Hoosier duo.

“Trevor and I mess around after practice (every day),” Gutman said. “He takes corners, and I just do crazy finishes on them. I made a quick move and got around my defender. It was a great ball, and I just kind of put my foot on it.”

That left Indiana 40 minutes to defend that one-goal lead, as the Hoosiers were unable to find an insurance goal.

But again the maturity and experience of playing many such games paid off.

“I thought our individual and team defending, which has been fantastic all year, helped us when we needed it the most, in the biggest moments,” IU coach Todd Yeagley said.

That included freshman goalkeeper Muse, whose lunging save of an Alan Winn shot from near the penalty spot in the 72nd minute preserved the lead.

The Tar Heels best remaining chance was a ball centered in the final minute that caromed off a Tar Heel and just wide of the goal for one last heart-pounding moment.

Seconds later, the game was over and Indiana was headed to its 15th national championship game in search of a ninth national title.

3 comments

  1. One goal was “more than enough” to win the game?

    Correct me if I am wrong but I believe one goal is the absolute minimum margin of victory.

  2. I remember people questioning the Todd Yeagley hire a few years back. Win or loose Indiana hired the right man for the job. Congratulations to him and the entire IU men’s soccer team.

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