Todd Yeagley didn’t get much sleep on Monday night.
It’s hard enough for the Indiana head coach to calm his thoughts, shake off the adrenaline and enjoy a restful slumber after a regular game. And after an NCAA Tournament quarterfinals victory? Yeagley knew how it was going to go before he even climbed into bed.
“It wasn’t a long sleep,” he said.
And yet, when Yeagley woke in North Carolina on Tuesday morning, he wasn’t so much groggy as he was relieved. He and his IU program didn’t have to pack up and fly to a new city, nor did they have to navigate any of the pressing logistical hurdles that pop up in the days that lead into a College Cup appearance, like coordinating practices and travel plans for a new location, or working through final exams. This year, with the entire event taking place during the spring in Cary, N.C., Yeagley and the crew didn’t have to do anything other than focus on what’s next — tonight’s national semifinal showdown with Pittsburgh.
“(The players) are already here, so they’ve already kind of felt some of that excitement of the College Cup, even though it wasn’t technically until now,” Yeagley said. “I think that helps us.”
That process of acclimation feels important to Yeagley this year because this IU squad isn’t like the last two teams he took to the Final Four. Those teams — particularly the ’18 squad — had veteran experience across the field, allowing them to overwhelm opponents at times. This group doesn’t really do that.
But it is a team that’s built well up the center of the field, with complementing playmakers on the wings. Perhaps most importantly, goalkeeper Roman Celentano has been the glue that’s helped keep this run to the College Cup going. And while the Hoosiers have often had to find different avenues to victory rather than relying on suffocating play, Yeagley doesn’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.
“We’ve won in so many different ways,” he said. “I think that’s a really important thing for a team at this point. If you’ve been dominant all season and you come up with a bad run of play, it could potentially rattle you. We’ve had a couple bad runs. We’ve also been dominant in big games against good teams. ... We have an outstanding goalkeeper, a strong spine and a goal scorer (in Victor Bezerra). Those ingredients have proven to be very important to us in many of our little runs.”
And while Pitt, the No. 2 overall seed, is making its first College Cup appearance this weekend, the Panthers are indeed a very, very good team. They began the fall season 7-0, the best start to a campaign in school history, before entering the NCAA Tournament as the Atlantic Coast Conference runner-up. ACC Offensive Player of the Year Valentin Noel, a sophomore midfielder, leads the charge with a team-best 14 goals, while classmate Veljko Petkovic enters play with nine goals and eight assists. Keeper Nico Campuzano, meanwhile, owns a 1.13 goals against average across 19 matches.
IU won the last meeting between the schools, 3-2 in double overtime, on Aug. 30, 2019 in the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic.
“We definitely know the style of play that they like to play, and we play against a few teams that have a similar style,” Yeagley said. “I thought Michigan this year has a very close resemblance to what we will face on Friday with their movements and some of their interchanges. They have an Akron look at times, as well, and we’ve played against them in the tournament and had success. … (Pitt) is an absolute contender, as they’re showing, so we’re going to have to be really good on Friday.”
This is Indiana’s 21st appearance in the College Cup, and Yeagley has been on hand for each of them, either as a supportive son, a player, an assistant or as a head coach, himself. He’s proud of that fact, and how he’s had so many opportunities to reach the final stop of the college soccer season.
“But it’s (trip) No. 1 for this group,” Yeagley said. “That’s what we’re focused on, letting this team have its opportunity to leave the ultimate mark.”
No. 3 seed Indiana vs. No. 2 seed Pitt
What: National semifinal
When: Friday, 8:30 p.m. Eastern
Where: WakeMed Field, Cary, N.C.
Broadcast: ESPNU | Dalen Cuff (pxp) & Devon Kerr (analyst)
Series: IU leads 1-0