No. 1 Hoosiers roll into NCAA quarterfinals, 2-0

The games can’t come soon enough for the Indiana men’s soccer team right now.

Seven days after a 4-0 win in the NCAA Tournament opener, the top-ranked and second-seeded Hoosiers extended their unbeaten streak to 11 matches with a 2-0 victory over No. 20 Air Force on Sunday to advance to a quarterfinal matchup with seventh-seeded Notre Dame on Friday night at 7 p.m.

For a team in top form, practice is just a necessary evil to fill the void in between games.

“We were about to kick each other too much the last few days in training,” IU coach Todd Yeagley said. “We had to separate some guys. They could not wait to go out and compete. I’m just happy this game came, otherwise we might have had a guy down in training.”

The Hoosiers (19-2-1) were the aggressor from the start on Sunday, including a flurry of activity that culminated in the go-ahead goal less than six minutes into the match.

“When they come into an environment like this with our home fans, you want to put them under from the first minute and get on the front foot for the rest of the game,” Indiana senior Trevor Swartz said.

It started with a steal and pass by Andrew Gutman at midfield to spring Justin Rennicks, just back from his stint with the U-20 national team, into the left side of the box only to see the shot clang off the crossbar.

Air Force (17-5) could barely catch its breath before the Hoosiers were at it again with Timmy Mehl finding Trevor Swartz on the left side for a cross into the box that skipped past Rennicks to a waiting Austin Panchot at the back post for the finish and a 1-0 lead.

“I always try to anticipate,” Panchot said. “You assume it’s getting through, and I’m always trying to be there and this time it ended up coming to me, so I always try to get in the right position and finish off the play.”

Indiana wanted to finish off restarts too, and it did for the second goal in the 22nd minute.

A foul gave IU a free kick just outside the box near the end line on the right side, and Swartz hit an in-swinging attempt that curled toward the back post. Mehl nodded the ball home for a 2-0 lead. It might have gone in regardless, but no one felt bad about the outcome.

“I wanted the assist anyway,” said Swartz, who collected his 15th of the season to break a tie with Yuri Lavrynenko, Wane Lobring and Yeagley and move into fourth place all-time in single-season assists.

“We’re all confident Trev is going to hit the spot where we practice day in and day out, so we all just try to work our guy and get to our spot,” Mehl said. “If we get there, it’s pretty much an open header.”

The Hoosiers couldn’t find the net again despite having repeated bursts of offensive pressure, but the defense weathered the Falcons throughout to maintain the shutout.

The closest call came with three and a half minutes left in regulation when Air Force hit the post on the eighth of their 10 corner kicks, and Rece Buckmaster headed the ricochet off the line.

“No quit in that team, Air Force,” Yeagley said. “They pushed us to the end. We gave away a few restarts late, a little bit disappointed with some of our communication and thought we got beat on some backdoor movement that we pride ourselves in, but there was always someone there to help, so when one guy didn’t do his job exactly how we hoped, there was someone there to help, and that’s the sign of a good team.”

A team that can’t wait to play at Armstrong Stadium one more time, especially with just 90 minutes separating the Hoosiers from a return trip to the College Cup.