The Quest for Nine is officially on.
Once again, after a largely successful regular season, the Indiana men's soccer team has reached the NCAA Tournament. They'll be playing their first game on Sunday afternoon at home against the winner of the Xavier/Monmouth game tonight. To get you ready for the team's quest for their ninth NCAA title, I've put together a quick primer about the tournament and what you should expect from the Hoosiers, who are seeded 5th nationally for the event.
So, how has the team done since we last discussed them?
AJ wrote about the team right after they defeated Notre Dame 1-0 at home. Since then, the Hoosiers went 2-1-1 to finish the regular season at 11-3-4, and despite a top-10 national ranking, the team was seeded sixth in the B1G tournament. They advanced over Northwestern thanks to penalty kicks, then defeated Ohio State in the semifinals to set up a championship game against Maryland. The Hoosiers and Terps were tied at 1 late in the game, when an unwarranted penalty in the 85th minute set the Terps up with a terrific free kick opportunity from 23 yards away, which they converted to win the game 2-1 and clinch the B1G title.
The NCAA selections were announced Monday. How did the Hoosiers fare?
IU received a national seed of 5 during the NCAA Tournament selection show. This is both good and bad. The good news is that the tournament features 48 teams, so the top 16 teams, including IU, receive national seeds and get first-round byes. The first round kicks off tomorrow night. As a 5-seed, Indiana gets to host second and third round games. If they win these two games and the seeds hold, the Hoosiers will likely advance to a quarterfinal against an opponent we'll talk about in just a bit. Win this quarterfinal game and IU heads to the College Cup, soccer's version of the Final Four, which will be held in Cary, North Carolina (a suburb of Raleigh-Durham) this year. The entire NCAA men's soccer bracket can be found here.
So who will our opponents be?
As mentioned earlier, we'll play the winner of the Xavier/Monmouth game on Sunday in Bloomington at 1 p.m. Providing we win this, we'll have another game at home exactly a week later, likely against 12th-seeded Creighton, who we beat in the semifinals of the 2012 tournament. If we win this game, we're onto the quarterfinals, which will be held on December 5. In that game, we could potentially play 13th-seeded Louisville, whom we beat 3-0 on the road earlier this year. But it's more likely that we'll travel to College Park to play 4th-seeded Maryland in that game.
Wait. The same Maryland who has beaten us twice this year and got some serious help from the refs in the tournament?
That's right. The Terps also beat us 2-1 in Bloomington in the regular season, in addition to their 2-1 win in College Park in the Big Ten tournament finals. Part of me wants to get revenge on the Terps in one last game this season, though another part of me wouldn't mind if they got knocked out before we faced them. If the Hoosiers advance to the quarterfinals and the Terps are eliminated, then IU will get to host one more game before heading to Cary.
Now that I know who we're potentially facing, tell us about some of the players who could lead us to another title.
Tanner Thompson leads the team this year with six goals. Right behind him is Femi Hollinger-Janzen, with five goals. Patrick Doody and Jamie Vollmer lead the team in assists with five apiece, and Andrew Oliver and Grant Lillard are also names to know, as they have both played in every game and scored four goals. In addition, goalkeeper Colin Webb has had a tremendous season, playing in every game thus far and posting a 0.91 goals against average. With the Hoosiers averaging 1.62 goals per game, Webb has been consistent enough that the Hoosiers won't lose games this year because of him, and will win as long as the offense does its part.
Anything else we need to know?
If you're able to cheer on the team, make sure you get out to Armstrong Stadium for second and third round action the next two Sundays. In terms of social media, the @IUMensSoccer twitter feed is a great resource about the team, and the always entertaining Chronic Hoosier provides several IU soccer tweets on gamedays as well. The Hoosiers have a proud men's soccer tradition, and while the team has a tough road to get to the College Cup, there's no reason the talent on this year's squad can't notch their second national title in three years, and ninth overall.