IU soccer wins 2nd straight Big Ten title

EAST LANSING, Mich. — It may not have been perfection, but it was close enough for the Indiana men’s soccer team.

A year after becoming the first team to go 8-0 in Big Ten play, the Hoosiers replaced 10 starters and went 7-1 to repeat as Big Ten regular-season champions with a 1-0 victory at Michigan State Sunday.

It was an extra sweet celebration for IU’s handful of veterans.

“A lot of people thought this would be a rebuilding year for us, but we don’t rebuild at Indiana, we reload,” junior A.J. Palazzolo told the Big Ten Network postgame.

His coach agreed.

“We believe every year we’re a championship-level team, and this is a special one, no doubt,” said Todd Yeagley, who won his third Big Ten regular-season title at the helm of the Hoosiers, repeat conference champs for the first time since 2006-07.

After three straight games scoring three goals or more, No. 10 Indiana (12-2-3, 7-1 B1G) found itself in more of a defensive tussle against the Spartans (3-11-3, 3-4-1), who have struggled offensively this season.

IU’s chances weren’t plentiful — each team had 10 shots — with just four attempts on frame.

The first of those came from Palazzolo, who hit a shot right at MSU goalkeeper Hunter Morris.

A few minutes later, freshman Victor Bezerra was taken down as he split two defenders dribbling in the box resulting in a penalty kick for Indiana.

Sophomore center back Jack Maher stepped to the spot and drilled his shot into the lower right corner for a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute.

“This was a gritty day,” Yeagley said. “This was not going to be a pretty soccer day.”

Michigan State had just two shots on frame, but IU freshman goalkeeper Roman Celentano was still busy enough picking off crosses into the box.

The most dangerous Spartan sequence came in the 68th minute when there were a flurry of shots blocked in the box.

The Hoosiers had a couple of chances to extend the lead midway through the second half, including one where Mauloune Goumballe eluded Morris, but slipped as he fired his shot wide of the open net.

Shortly thereafter, Thomas Warr had a chance from a steep angle on the right side of the box but hit his shot into the side netting.

It turned out not to matter, as a combination of superb defense and offensive clock killing closed out the 16th regular-season Big Ten title in program history.

As the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, Indiana will host the Ohio State-Rutgers winner next Sunday at Armstrong stadium in the quarterfinals. With a win, IU would face the Northwestern-Maryland winner in the semifinals.