INDIANA SOCCER RELEASE
PHILADELPHIA – Stanford’s “press to dispossess” style finally paid off after 102 scoreless minutes of play Sunday.
And the first time Indiana’s soccer men were officially beaten all season came at the absolute worst time for Hoosier hearts as Stanford’s third straight NCAA championship crown came in stunning fashion.
With the ball in their end, the Hoosiers look to clear, but Stanford’s sophomore Sam Werner suddenly swooped forward for a steal just outside the six-yard box.
Werner then perfectly chipped a shot, between two Hoosier defenders and over freshman keeper Trey Muse, that scraped the bottom of the crossbar and went in for the 1-0 win.
“That’s a tough one,” IU coach Todd Yeagley said post-game. “We said, heading into the overtimes, make sure we play really safe in moments requiring safety decisions. Obviously, Griff felt he had a little window there to make a play.
Buit, again, their re-press is great, and they were able to make a play and their kid finished it really well. That (play) won’t be our focus, certainly. But we learn from all different experiences throughout the year and, into next year, we’ll learn from that.”
Muse, who had no real chance to stop Werner’s point-blank shot, was the man of the match till that point. On a day neither side generated many actual chances, he came up with a huge save in both the first and second halves.
IU had more of the play in the first 10 minutes – with Austin Panchot getting a reverse flick off a Rece Buckmaster cross that went wide seven minutes in – but in the 11th minute, Stanford’s Bryce Marion countered with a running right-footer just astride the penalty spot.
Muse dived and his big right mitt snared the shot securely, permitting no chance of a rebound.
And Muse supplied an even bigger save with 26:11 left in regulation time.
Standout Stanford junior Foster Langsdorf kept his footing between defenders and sent a terrific through ball to Corey Baird, creaking a one-v-keeper chance down the left side of the penalty area.
Muse came off his line brilliantly to shut down Baird’s shooting angle to the near post then stonewalled the shot.
“He made the one or two saves, playing against high-level team, that you’re going to have to get,” Yeagley said of his freshman keeper. “Even as good as our defense has been, Stanford has got some play-makers and they’re good. So he made the one or two saves we needed and was really steady otherwise.
“He gave our group a lot of composure and lot of consistency. I can’t say enough about how good he was this year and today was no different. I think the goal was difficult. It came off pretty quick and through traffic, with him not getting a good look at it, and it hit the underside of the bar. I don’t think there is much Trey could have done with that.”
Neither side could get much done against the nation’s top two defenses (IU entered giving up just .233 goals per game and Stanford was next at .401).
Muse tied a NCAA record by posting 18 clean sheets this season. Stanford (19-2-2 this year) now has 12 straight shutouts in NCAA tournament games going back to 2015. IU didn’t get what would constitute a great look all day.
“What they’ve been able to achieve is quite remarkable,” Yeagley said of the three-time defending champion Cardinal. “They’re a disciplined, tough-minded team. And I respect that.
“They’re effective in what they do and every player plays their role in that. They have good players on all the different lines. They make teams get uncomfortable.”
IU junior Cory Thomas concurred: “I think they did a great job with their press. They took us out of what we like to do, which is possess a little more and play through the lines.
“We had to adapt a little bit and play like they do, a little longer, up and down balls. We’re good at adapting, but today it wasn’t good enough.”
IU, outshot 12-5 overall, did get more of the play down the stretch of regulation time and in the first overtime.
After a Hoosier corner kick was cleared, freshman forward Mason Toye shot wide from distance in the 93rd minute. Three minutes later, a slip feed nearly found fellow freshman Justin Rennicks in on goal, Cardinal keeper Nico Corti got to the ball just before Rennicks could.
Langsdorf then took a rip from 25 yards out at the other end, with Muse climbed the ladder for the catch in the 98th minute.
And with the defenses holding sway, the second OT started with the game seemingly destined for penalty kicks, the method through which Stanford earned its 2016 crown and through which the Hoosiers made this year’s College Cup.
Then came Werner’s shockingly sudden strike, in a situation that didn’t initially seem all that dangerous.
“The overtime is tough, because it’s so sudden … the suddenness is hard,” Yeagley said. “Our guys, I thought, had a special year. We often say the best mark you can leave is a star on the jersey (signifying national titles) and it was really close today.
“But I do know this team will be talked about not just next year, or the year after that, but for many years to come for what they did as a group … for the new records they put in our record book.”
IU finished 18-1-6. This was the third Hoosier team to reach the College Cup undefeated only to be denied the ultimate prize, with the others coming in 1976 and 1997.
“Some of best teams, some of our greatest teams over the years, haven’t been able to bring hardware – the most coveted hardware – home,” Yeagley said. “It’s tough.
“But if that’s all you use to evaluate your experience, that’s a bit narrow (in perspective), and our guys don’t. That’s their goal, to put something in the trophy case and another star on the jersey, but that doesn’t define (the entire experience).
“I’m just really proud of this team. They’ve been a really fun team to coach and represent Indiana with a lot of distinction, in a way to make a lot of us proud. They’ve helped carry on a really special tradition at Indiana. It’s going to take some time to feel that. But I think they will. I know they will.”
That 1976 championship game also occurred in Philadelphia, when a missed penalty-kick at Franklin Field cost coach Jerry Yeagley’s Hoosiers in their first-ever final.
But Jerry Yeagley had multiple titles in his future.
And while it’s even tougher to do these days, his son Todd just might, too.