PHILADELPHIA – Somebody, on this freezing Friday night, had to break the ice.
Andrew Gutman was that guy.
Gutman made the game’s first corner-kick for either side pay decisive dividends in the 50th minute as Indiana topped North Carolina, 1-0, in the NCAA College Cup semifinals.
Trevor Swartz delivered a perfect left-footed in-swinger to the back post and IU junior classmate Gutman got there to bury it with his left foot into the far side of the net.
And that was all Indiana’s No. 1-rated defense needed. The unbeaten Hoosiers essentially stifled the UNC’s No. 2-rated offense all night long while posting their 18th shutout this season.
“Well, team defense is one of our strongest traits,” IU coach Todd Yeagley told ESPN-U post-game. “And, as that game went on, I felt we had to rely on that.
“We created the opportunities we needed. Typically, this time of year, it’s a set piece, a couple of opportunities, and we took them well. Really proud of these guys getting an opportunity on Sunday to win our ninth.”
Ninth national title. Ninth star to adorn Indiana’s soccer gear.
But standing in the way is Stanford, a 2-0 winner over Akron in Friday’s first semifinal at Talen Energy Stadium and playing for its third straight NCAA title Sunday.
“Stanford is excellent,” Yeagley said. “Two-time defending champion. I thought they’ve looked fantastic during this tournament run. We’re going to have to be at our best. We’ll have to be a bit better than we were today.
“But again, it’s about survival (to advance). I have a lot of respect for what they’re doing at Stanford, and our guys are going to be really excited to get to play against Stanford for the championship.”
No. 2-seeded IU and No. 3 UNC, clearly harboring respect for each other’s skill level, spent most of Friday night’s first half trying to feel each other out, which basically kept both offenses on ice.
The Tar Heels had most of possession early and IU had most of it late in the half.
IU freshman keeper Trey Muse showed his customary quick reaction 13 minutes in on an endline cross into the box by Zach Wright, sending the ball out of harm’s way.
The Hoosier defense recovered well as a unit to negate a break by Alan Winn in the 23rd minute.
IU got its first shot with 9:36 left in the half off the foot of Cory Thomas, but it was an easy save for UNC’s James Pyle.
But Pyle had to come up with a full-out diving punch save at 1:50 when Swartz sent a one-timer from atop the 18 rocketing goalward. It was easily the most dangerous shot of the half for either side.
UNC (17-4-1) had just two shots, zero on-goal, at the half. IU (18-0-6) had three and two.
Then the Hoosiers got the one that counted just 4:44 into the second half as Swartz and Gutman made their classy connection.
The thought of holding on for 40 minutes against an attack with the potency of North Carolina’s would daunt most defenses. Indiana was up for the task. UNC had 53 goals on the season and barely got a sniff of one Friday.
A strong left-footer by Carmel native Cam Lindley was right at Muse with 36:00 to play. That was the Tar Heels’ first shot on-goal.
Muse parried away an Alan Winn attempt with 18:15 to play.
UNC had one last chance, on a Wright cross along the endline that Lucas Del Rosario got a boot on but couldn’t get on net inside the final minute.
IU and Stanford will kick off for the big trophy at 1 p.m. Sunday, with ESPN2 providing the telecast.