A championship season ended IU's longest College Cup drought. Let's review the personnel and the performances.
There's certainly a lot of good news and hype about Indiana Soccer out there these days. Soccer America, Ives Garcalep, and the MLS all have interesting articles about Indiana's resurgence and/or on college cup performances. What I enjoyed most, though, was probably the IDS's championship edition (pdf).
Way back in August, I predicted that the Hoosiers would finish the regular season 12-3-3 (they finished 11-4-3), win the Big Ten Tourney (they went out in the first game), and get to the Elite Eight, and very possibly make it back to the College Cup. As we all know, they seized the opportunity to demonstrate their vicious defense and midfield control and turn those into their eighth title. At the time, I went through the roster and predicted what to look for from each player. Let's review their performances now.
Personnel: Projected Starters
#2 Eriq Zavaleta, F: Well, he sure lived up to the hype. The MLS is talking about him, and not only did he net 18 goals and 4 assists, he had 46.3 Shot On Goal%, and seven game-winners. He was a clear target man, coming through with big goals against Notre Dame and North Carolina before cleanly assisting Kotlov's championship-clinching goal. The only question is whether he goes pro early or returns. I have to think he's gone, what else can he do here?
#9 Andrew Oliver, M/F: Blue-chip true frosh was a consensus top 10 prep and expected to be an instant impact player. He showed talent early, but wasn't really able to blend in as an attacking midfielder in Yeagley's configuration. He did get 8 starts, post an outstanding 61.5 SOG%, and might be the one to watch in the spring games.
#8 Nikita Kotlov, M/F: Nikita Kotlov's 8th NCAA tournament goal broke a tie with Pat Noonan to establish him as Indiana's second-leading postseason goal scorer. He's still a little ways off from Aleksey Korol's 12, though. Kotlov started the season slowly, only scoring three goals in the regular season, but he aced the final.
#7 Harrison Petts, M: Petts had a great goal at Penn State in OT, when Indiana was fading he delivered a golden goal for a brilliant win. Otherwise, there was precious little offense actually contributed from Petts, with only 2 assists and despite the 26 shots he launched. Petts did great work as a facilitator and as part of that nasty ball-control defense with Lax and Bushue.
#10 AJ Corrado, M: AJ became a hub of the IU offense last season, and moved a little bit up this season to more of a forward position. His 12 assists tied for 9th highest season total all-time at Indiana.
#17 Jacob Bushue, M: Bushue was mentioned early as perhaps being Indiana's best two-way player, but the statistical variation in the games where he was injured (and missed time: he was obviously still recovering from injury throughout the tourney) demonstrated his value. (A+)
#15 Jamie Vollmer, M/B: Vollmer didn't play this year, and I never really found any information why. As a transfer, I don't think he had a redshirt year available, and I didn't hear of any injury, but if he's available next season, that will definitely help.
#5 Matt McKain, D: Went from a being a capable back to one of the keys of IU's offense. Along with Doody, the ability of the outside backs to advance and serve great crosses into the box was very rewarding during the NCAA tourney. (A)
#22 Caleb Konstanski, D: One of my favorite Hoosiers made his mark at the College Cup, and is now being discussed as a good MLS material (drawing comparisons to Jay DeMerit). Great year for the keystone of a revitalized defense. (A+)
#19 Patrick Doody, D: Acquitted himself well after a quiet freshman season.
#1 Luis Soffner, GK: I once called for Soffner to be benched at the end of his sophomore year. I just didn't think he had the instincts to be a great goalie, the kind that Indiana needed. I am so glad to be wrong. I don't think he's necessarily more talented than former keepers Jay Nolly or Scott Coufal, but I do think he deserves the look he's getting at the MLS combine. Congratulations, Luis, and thanks.
#12 Joe Tolen, F: Tolen had a good spring season, but was largely on the bench this season, getting only spot time in his 10 games played. I'm sure he won't mind his decreased playing time when he's looking at his championship ring.
#21 Kyle Sparks, F: As a redshirt freshman, Sparks actually had a pretty good year off the bench (he did have five starts). He only scored one goal, but put an astounding 9 of his 11 shots on frame for 81.8%. He will likely be in line for more PT next season.
#14 TJ Popolizio, M/F (graduate student transfer from Brown): I said that I didn't know that despite leading the Brown Bears in scoring last season, that TJ would even the starting eleven. He sure didn't, coming off the bench in only 9 games, but he was involved in some good goals, despite be credited with no assists.
#13 Tim Wylie, F: Noone expected fifth-year senior Wylie to get much time. He didn't, but hey, what a great time to stick around for a fifth year.
#6 Femi Hollinger-Janzen, M: Ahem "This is my sleeper pick of the freshman class. Watch for this guy to contribute sooner rather than later." Um, yeah. Once he gets his finishing under control a little bit, this kid could be the new Chris Klein, or frankly, even better.
#30 Dylan Lax, M: Lax saw precious little of the field in first season, but he really developed into a nice stopper/midfielder by the end of the season. He only started 9 games this season, but sure seems like he's got a spot locked down in 2013.
#20 Alex Hadley, D (transfer from Cincinnati): Hadley only got credited with playing in one game all season, which if I'm reading this right, was the championship game. Nice timing, Hadley.
#24 Drew Schall, D (transfer from Evansville): Schall only got two starts, but saw action in 10 games. Along with Hadley and possibly Vollmer, he might have an opening this spring to show his worthiness for a starting spot on the back four.
#23 Kerel Bradford, D/M: Wow, did Bradford embrace his new defensive role! Bradford became a season-long starter in the middle defense next to Caleb Konstanski, and was the Hoosiers' stay-at-home guy, notching only one shot this season. I'm just saying here, but the dude looks good without a shirt, too.
#33 Sean Weidman, GK: Weidman, nor any other goalkeeper save Soffner, saw any time this season, so the spring games will be interesting.
Deep bench? (#11 Aris Zafieratos, M, #18 Richard Ballard, D, #4 Derek Creviston, D #3 Lance Davis, M/F (RS Fr), Michael Soderlund, GK)
The surprise here is Richard Ballard, the ginger-haired freshman midfielder who saw action in 13 games, getting four starts. Again, he saw minutes in the championship game, so kudos for coming on late, Ballard.
Originally, I had planned on going through and assigning letter grades or some such to all of their performances, but seriously, who can complain about little things here or there when these guys are hoisting the title trophy? Not me.
The future looks bright again for the Hoosiers, who have good recruits coming next season that we'll cover after the official announcement. And although the Hoosiers lose Soffner, Konstanski, Nate Mitchell, Popolizio, Tolen, Wylie, and Zafeiratos to graduation, only Soffner and Konstanski are starters. Still, there'll have to be adjustments on defense, and the offense is more likely than not to lose Zavaleta, but Indiana soccer has returned.