When Virginia Tech midfielder Forrest White ended IU men’s soccer’s season Sunday at Bill Armstrong Stadium, every player was flat on the ground in disbelief.
They couldn’t believe their season had to end so abruptly. It was heartbreaking. It was upsetting. What was thought of as a season with so much promise came to a crashing halt. IU Coach Todd Yeagley said his side didn’t lose the match, rather Virginia Tech won it with a tremendous finish.
Nonetheless, the Hoosiers didn’t advance on. They would have had a chance to avenge their loss against Wake Forest from last year, but it wasn’t meant to be.
The team won their first two matches of the season in dramatic fashion. The first win came behind a penalty kick from IU senior Tanner Thompson with less than a minute left against New Mexico. The second win was a 3-1 stunner versus University California Irvine.
After that first weekend, the team was feeling good heading into the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic. Stanford and Cal were coming to Bloomington for two high profile matches. IU ended up beating Cal, but settled for a draw with Stanford when IU junior defender Grant Lillard got his first career red card.
That led into IU’s match against the top team in the country, Maryland. Without their best defender, the Hoosiers nearly came away with a win, but Maryland’s Alex Crognale’s 87th minute goal forced a draw.
Throughout the season, the Hoosiers could defend like no other. They also settled for draws like none other. IU prided themselves on their defense and posted 11 shutouts, one shy of its team season goal of 12. The Hoosiers led the nation in draws with seven and that was mostly due to their inability to consistently score goals.
Thompson was the leader in goals on the team with eight, but no one else had more than five. If one thing will be remembered through this season it will be the games against Northwestern, IUPUI, Penn State and a few others in which the Hoosiers outshot their opponent by a wide margin, but had to either settle for a draw or a close win. In the case of the final match, they settled for a loss.
Yeagley stressed during the season quality in the final third. Some games they had it, others they didn’t. One could sense the frustration from the entire team after games where they just couldn’t put games away with goals. That’s what ultimately doomed them.
Against the best of the best, the Hoosiers fared well. They were 4-1-2 in the regular season against top 25 RPI teams. It was a team that competed with any program in the nation but also could struggle against any program in the nation.
There were also other memorable games like the three goal comeback against Butler, the dramatic win at Louisville, and the 2-1 win against Michigan State to snatch the two seed away from the Spartans.
There was just one loss in the regular season and it came in South Bend on Oct. 4. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish came to play, and the Hoosiers got just a bit unlucky. The Irish pushed four goals past IU senior Colin Webb in goal.
It was their only blemish, but they bounced back quite nicely.
For the four-year seniors, they were able to continue the stretch of consecutive years getting to the NCAA Tournament. That streak is now at 30 years. They just weren’t able to take it to the next step. This season’s Round of 16 was the farthest they advanced in the tournament.
It is the last game many of the seniors will ever play. As Thompson put it, the loss to Virginia Tech stings, but those are the types of games that you learn from the most.
Yeagley will lose quite a bit of talent from his team this season. Thompson is gone. His two starting goalkeepers are gone. His starting forward in Richard Ballard is gone as well. Glue guys midfielder Phil Fives and defender Billy McConnell too.
The season didn’t end the way the Hoosiers wanted it to. This senior class was determined to make it back to the College Cup for the first time since they won it all in 2012. It is now up to next year’s team to make it happen.
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