Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley has brought the Hoosiers back, winning their eighth national soccer championship. When the season started, my expectation was for this team to demonstrate growth and improvement, win the Big Ten, and secure a high seed in the NCAA tourney. The postseason is always unpredictable, but I hoped they would show growth there, too, getting to the round of eight and possibly gaining a College Cup berth (although I thought that might be a little much to ask). Indiana was on track for these goals most of the season, until a late-season slide that coincided with an injury to midfielder Jacob Bushue hurt the Hoosiers. This march to the title, though, was completely unexpected until you dug into the numbers (particularly by throwing out the games that Bushue missed). Although this team didn't have the offensive fireworks of some of the past teams, this was still a dominant Indiana team, and they showed it on the field by controlling the midfield and playing suffocating defense from end-to-end throughout the tourney.
The national title game against Georgetown was an interesting affair, as the Hoosiers again asserted dominance early. Much like the Creighton game on Friday, the Hoosiers were getting good shots but coming empty, and when AJ Corrado stole the ball from a defender and went one on one with GU keeper Tomas Gomez, it seemed the Hoosiers would be leading in the 24th minute. Gomez came up with the save, however, and if not for his capable play (which notably better than his performance against Maryland), the Hoosiers would've been leading at the half.
Yeagley smartly rested several players going into the break, with Eriq Zavaleta, AJ Corrado, and Nikita Kotlov all getting a rest before the half. Kyle Sparks, Richard Ballard, and Andrew Oliver all got some PT, and played reasonably well enough as Indiana controlled the tempo for most of the first 45 minutes. Georgetown was noticeably gassed, bent over and practically gulping for air during any break in the action. The Hoosiers seemed well-positioned to for the second half.
Out of halftime, the Hoosiers still seemed to have control, but after Zavaleta sent a header over the bar, Georgetown seemed to wake up and started controlling the ball much better. Pulling leading scorer Brandon Allen out and replacing him with midfielder Melvin Snoh helped GU address their lack of ball control, but that also meant that they didn't have the forwards to break through with good shots. Despite rediscovering their aggressiveness, however, the Hoyas were unable to keep scoring in the 64th minute. Outside back Patrick Doody, who's services into the box have been killer throughout the tournament, swung in a cross that Eriq Zavaleta kept alive, sending it to Nikita Kotlov who made no mistake with the finish.
Georgetown kept their spirits up, continuing to attack but was unable to really break through, with only a header sent high to show for all of their work. And then Indiana found a series of chances with just under 20 minutes to go. First Femi Hollinger-Janzen had a shot blocked, and then Zavaleta and Sparks both test Gomez, but he saved both shots. The ball came back to Femi, and he blasted it just wide of the open net. The Hoosiers, while not giving up anything, continued to test the Hoyas with shots from Kotlov, Petts, and Femi. (Kolov's shot was cleared off the line by a Georgetown defender!) Then, Georgetown had one last chance with only a minute left on the clock. The Hoyas took a long free kick, and Ian Christianson somehow got his head on the ball and it sailed past Luis Soffner, but struck the post. The bar music rang sweet for the Hoosiers this day.
With this championship, not only do the Hoosiers have 8 national championships, but now all three coaches that have coached IU's varsity soccer program have won a national championship. There's plenty to celebrate, and I'll break down the Hoosiers' journey a little later this week, once it all has sunk in.