CHESTER, Pa. — With the season on the line, all it takes is one moment for it to end in heartbreak.
For IU, that’s all it took.
Stanford junior midfielder Sam Werner capitalized off a misplay by IU freshman midfielder Griffin Dorsey inside IU's 18-yard box in the second period of extra time. Werner had a good touch initially and then fired a shot past IU freshman goalkeeper Trey Muse.
Golden goal. Season over.
The Hoosiers had the top defense all season by many metrics, but it was a defensive misplay that ended up costing them in the end. The Cardinal beat the Hoosiers, 1-0, in two overtimes to win the 2017 National Championship.
“We said, heading into the end the overtime, make sure we would play really safe in moments of numerous safety decisions," IU Coach Todd Yeagley said. "Obviously, Griff thought he had a little window there to make a play and yet, again, their re-press is great and they were able to make a play and the kid finished it really well. We learn from all different experiences throughout the year and we are moving on to the next year, and so, I think we'll learn from that.”
Throughout the 102 minutes, Stanford had the upper hand on the attack. The Cardinal finished the match by outshooting the Hoosiers 13-5. Both defenses, however, were up to the challenge.
The Cardinal, led by senior Tomas Hilliard-Arce, and the Hoosiers, led by senior Grant Lillard, both had the top defenses in the NCAA.
Whenever the Hoosiers got near the Stanford penalty box, they struggled with the final ball. It’s been a problem before and Sunday afternoon it was a problem again.
The Cardinal also boasted one of the best defenses in the country, and they brought their top game.
“I think our strategy going in was obviously not to take risks at the back," Hilliard-Arce said. "Usually we play against teams in the tournament at this stage, who kind of like to possess it and give us a chance or two, but Indiana didn't really have that mentality. We just recognized that we'd get some long balls, something that we haven't faced but we knew just be solid and structured in our defense."
Stanford Coach Jeremy Gunn said both defenses were really tested and both teams were able to mix it up on offense. He continued by saying both sides did their job.
The game plan differed in that the Cardinal played higher up the pitch while the Hoosiers sat back and made it hard to get in behind their defense.
That meant Hilliard-Arce would be tested more than Lillard. In the end, Gunn said the collective defending made the game tight.
IU never really had a clear-cut scoring opportunity. Stanford’s defense was just as much up to the task as IU’s.
The Cardinal just made one more play and made things tough all afternoon long for the Hoosiers.
“They did a great job with their press,” IU junior midfielder Cory Thomas said. “Maybe what we like to do is possess a little more, play through the lines and we had to adapt to play like they were, a little longer to our forwards. I think we’re good at adapting, but today we weren’t good enough.”
After 25 matches, the Hoosiers will look at the trophy case and see no hardware. No Big Ten title, no Big Ten Tournament title, nor a NCAA title. But Yeagley said you can’t always define a season based on hardware. It’s something people always look at, but it doesn’t necessarily show what the season was made of.
“I think some of our best teams and through the years, many of them haven't been able to bring hardware certainly,” Yeagley said. “That's tough because this team did so many things and was a bit short. But I think, if that's all you kind of evaluate your experience, then it's it's a bit narrow and our guys don't. That's their goal, it's to put something in the trophy case, put a star on the jersey, but it doesn't define it.”
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