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College Cup Final: Hoosiers look for 9th star tonight against Marshall

IU is back in the final, while Marshall makes its first-ever appearance

NCAA Soccer: Men’s College Cup- Pitt vs Indiana
Pitt’s Jackson Walti and IU’s Lawson Redmon go after the ball during Friday’s first half at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The goal every year is to add another star to the jersey. Tonight, Indiana has its second opportunity in four years to stitch on its ninth.

Here’s what you ought to know heading into the 2021 College Cup Final match between third-seeded Indiana and Marshall:

Have you heard this one before? Something about defense winning championships?

If not, you’ll probably hear it throughout tonight’s ESPN2 telecast. That’s because the final match of the men’s soccer season features two of the top defensive teams in the nation, with IU entering play ranked second in the country with a team goals against average of .321, and Marshall entering the contest ranked fourth with a GAA of .448.

Marshall is tied for the national lead in clean sheets with 10, shutting out opponents in five of its last seven matches. The Thundering Herd have allowed multiple goals in a match only once — a 2-1 overtime loss to Akron on March 2 — and they also went 322 minutes and 58 seconds of combined clock time earlier this season without allowing a single shot on goal.

On the IU end, keeper Roman Celentano has been outstanding this spring, pacing the nation in save percentage (.912), ranking second in shutouts (nine), and third in GAA (.321). Only Marshall’s Oliver Semmle has more shutouts than Celentano this season.

IU ranks third nationally in goal differential (+26), while Marshall is tied for fifth (+21).

A run for the record books

While Indiana is trying to add the latest championship chapter to its decorated program story, Marshall is playing in its first College Cup Final. In fact, coach Chris Grassie’s club is the first Conference USA member in league history to play for a men’s national title. Charlotte finished as a runner-up in 2011 while still a member of the Atlantic-10.

To get here, the Thundering Herd scored an overtime win over Fordham in the second round before taking down top-seeded Clemson, 7-6, in penalties in Round 3. In the quarterfinals, Marshall knocked off eighth-seeded Georgetown, 1-0. In Friday’s College Cup semifinal, the Thundering Herd got the best of UNC, 1-0.

Marshall is just the fourth unseeded squad to make the final since the 16-team seed era began in 2003.

Hermann Trophy contenders take the stage

Marshall’s Vitor Dias was named a semifinalist for the top individual honor in college soccer earlier this spring, so you’ll want to keep an eye on him. The junior midfielder leads his team with six goals and six assists while becoming the first First Team All-American (United Soccer Coaches) in program history.

IU’s Victor Bezerra, meanwhile, is one of three finalists for the Hermann Trophy. He might be due for a goal, too. The sophomore forward has gone three matches without one, marking his longest dry spell of the campaign.

How to watch

What: College Cup Final

When: Tonight, 8 p.m.

Where: WakeMed Field, Cary, N.C.

Broadcast: ESPN2 | Dalen Cuff (pxp), Devon Kerr (analyst), Lori Lindsey (sideline)

Series: First meeting