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No. 6 Indiana Falls, 1-0, in NCAA Third Round

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A slip and it was over, a game, a championship season, an unbeaten home soccer winning streak.

 

Hoosiers lay strewn across Indiana’s Jerry Yeagley Field as if they’d been struck by lightning.

 

In so many ways, they had.

 

Sunday afternoon’s 1-0 overtime NCAA Sweet 16 loss to UC Santa Barbara was a stunner that turned the Armstrong Stadium crowd mute. It took the Hoosiers nearly five minutes to rise and slowly walk across the black cinder track to a locker room finale no one wanted.

 

Santa Barbara senior striker Will Baynham blasted in the winner minutes into the second overtime period and, just like that, IU’s 38-match home unbeaten streak was history.

 

“It was a great finish by a striker who’s been good for them all season,” coach Todd Yeagley said. “That was the difference.”

 

It came when Hoosier fifth-year senior defender Jordan Kleyn, looking to be aggressive with the ball in front of the IU goal, slipped. The ball squirted free and Baynham pounced the way you’d expect a team’s leading scorer would.

 

“Jordan did extremely well for more than 100 minutes,” sophomore defender Jack Maher said. “He played great. That slip can’t define a full performance. What he meant to this team, we’ll remember for a long time. He cares about the program.”

 

Added junior midfielder Spencer Glass: “Those things happen. We could have put chances away earlier and not gotten to that point.

 

“With this weather, both teams are tired. All of us were expecting to get a few more chances in those last 10 minutes (of the second overtime period).”

 

Yeagley emphasized the quality of Kleyn’s play that put IU into position to win.

 

“He played a great game. A lot of good finishers wouldn’t have finished like that. That does not define him or the season.”

 

The Hoosiers (15-3-4) had controlled most of the game, building a 12-5 edge in shots, 6-2 in corner kicks, before Baynham’s game winner. It was IU’s first allowed goal in six matches.

 

“We’ll each take it in his own way,” Glass said. “We’ll let everyone grieve in his own way. It’s all about how you respond. We came off a round of 16 loss (in 2016) went to back-to- back College Cups.”

 

IU will be back, Maher added.

 

“This is just a start for years to come. Indiana is a special place and program. We understand what it takes to win. That’s the main takeaway. This wasn’t our day. It hurts. It will hurt for years to come, but we’ll grow from it.”

 

This was a game of patience and strategy, of fundamentals and maturity, of physical play, mental toughness and punishing weather. Opportunity was there for a team to exploit and Santa Barbara, a veteran squad with a strong core of international players, did.

 

“(Santa Barbara) played with a lot of passion and fight,” Yeagley said. “Early on they gave us a lot to deal with. As game went on, I felt we were really in control.

 

“It’s a real gutted locker room. It will take a while for our guys to understand what they did. There were so many new faces we had to rely on. It was incredible.”

 

IU’s talented youth had delivered Big Ten regular season and conference tourney titles along with an eight-match unbeaten streak, but it couldn’t produce a third straight Elite Eight appearance.

 

“We’re young,” Yeagley said. “A lot of nice players are in the fold for next year.

 

“We’ve come a long way. That’s a credit to them. They’re out there performing.”

 

Snow arrived just as UC Santa Barbara players emerged from the trailer that served as a locker room. Armstrong Stadium renovation had altered the facility, but not lofty Cream ‘n Crimson expectations, and if cold weather could tip the advantage to Indiana, no Hoosier would complain.

 

It didn’t.

 

The Gauchos (15-4-4) arrived NCAA tourney hot. They had beaten California 3-1 (their last win over Cal came in 2003) and St. Mary’s 4-0 before heading to Indiana.

 

IU got a couple of early shots amid a light snow, but no goals against a team that had recorded 13 shutouts. By halftime, the 0-0 score remained, with Victor Bezerra, Joris Ahlinvi and Aidan Morris taking IU shots.

 

Indiana freshman Joshua Penn had a big opportunity 16 minutes into the second half, but Santa Barbara goal keeper Ben Roach stuck out his left hand to stop it.

 

That was a couple of minutes after IU keeper Roman Celentano took a huge shot to the chest while making a save.

 

Overtime arrived with IU holding an 11-5 shot advantage.

 

The Hoosiers kept up the offensive pressure in overtime, but without the scoring reward.

 

In the end, that cost them.

 

As far as the future (seven freshmen scored this season, plus Celentano’s strong effort), Yeagley said he and his staff would begin work this week.

 

“That’s the nature of the profession. As coaches, we have to move on and assess. It never stops. Players always looking to get better.

 

“But I want to give enough time to spend with these guys before school is out, make sure everyone is in a good place and regroup. The guys need some time. It’s not, ‘Next year starts now.’ They don’t need to hear that now.

 

“We’ll prepare and be back.”