The stakes were high in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The last time the Hoosiers matched up with the Akron Zips, the Zips sent IU home in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. This time around the Hoosiers weren’t going to let that happen.
Behind senior defender Billy McConnell’s goal in the 54th minute, the No. 7 seeded Hoosiers moved onto the third round of the NCAA Tournament with a 1-0 win over the Zips.
“We created some phenomenal chances, and I felt we should have had a few more.” IU Coach Todd Yeagley said. “Ironically we find one again on a restart, which again this time of the year through as many teams that I’ve been with can be the difference is being sharp in those moments both offensively and defensively."
It was close throughout with both teams sharing plenty of time on the ball. The Zips were more dangerous on the counter while the Hoosiers had plenty of chances throughout the match. IU’s goal eventually came off of a corner sent in by senior midfielder Tanner Thompson.
Thompson has been pulling the strings in the midfield all season long, and Sunday was no different. His technical skill showed when the Hoosiers needed it most. Thompson’s cross off a corner kick was batted around the box and appeared as if an Akron defender knocked it in.
The goal was eventually awarded to McConnell, his third of the season.
“Tanner just played a great ball in. I got a flick on it. It deflected in,” McConnell said. “I didn’t really see it until it actually went in, but I got a head on it and the defender wasn’t able to react in time.”
IU has prided itself on defense all season long, from McConnell on the right all the way across the back to IU sophomore Andrew Gutman. This backline is stout. Junior defender Grant Lillard, sophomore defender Timmy Mehl and senior goalkeeper Christian Lomeli were all key in the victory.
Lomeli notched three saves on the day.
“Here at Indiana, we really take pride in our defense. That’s kind of our calling card,” sophomore midfielder Francesco Moore said. “We just couldn’t give them time on the ball to make any decisions and let them pick us apart. The least amount of time we gave them, the better for us. And it was able to hold them off.”
Akron had plenty of chances throughout the match and tallied 12 shots on goal. IU edged them out in that department by one, and the corner count was even at eight.
There wasn’t much to separate these two teams. Akron was countering, IU was holding strong. The Zips played a physical game and were called for 16 fouls, compared to just eight for the Hoosiers. But IU got the result.
IU will stay at home for another match next Sunday against either No. 10 seed Charlotte or Virginia Tech. As is tradition, the Hoosiers will most likely spend another Thanksgiving in the Tudor Room at the Indiana Memorial Union.
“We’re going to take one game at a time and we’re going to keep going,” McConnell said. “We’re going to go to the final four. We’re going to get there, go to Houston, get a ring. We want to stay together as long as possible.”
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