WESTFIELD, Ind. - Before the season, IU captain and senior defender Grant Lillard had three goals for the team in 2017 — to win a Big Ten Regular Season Championship, to win a Big Ten Tournament Championship and to win a National Championship.
Two weeks ago, IU had a chance to accomplish its first goal at the end of the regular season. After a draw against the Michigan State Spartans, IU was forced to settle for a second-place finish in the conference.
The Big Ten Tournament was a chance for redemption. Once again, the Hoosiers came up short.
After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer Sunday afternoon at Grand Park, the Wisconsin Badgers knocked off the Hoosiers, 4-2, in penalty kicks to win the Big Ten Tournament Championship.
“It’s a pretty awful feeling,” IU junior midfielder Austin Panchot said. “We know we still have the big one to play for, so we’re going to learn from this and try to get better and really go from here looking forward. That’s all we can do.”
The Big Ten Tournament has not been kind to the Hoosiers as of late. In the last three Big Ten Tournaments, IU has been knocked out via a penalty shootout. In 2015, it was Maryland in the semifinals. Then the last two seasons it has been Wisconsin that sent the Hoosiers home without a championship.
“This is going to sting for a couple of days, but we have to put it behind us,” IU junior defender Andrew Gutman said. “The big one is coming up, so we have to get ready for that. If we win that, everything will be forgotten.”
Throughout the 110 minutes Sunday, you could sense the urgency. With every blown whistle, missed shot and giveaway in the midfield, the thought of winning a Big Ten title sat in the minds of the players. Neither IU nor Wisconsin could find a breakthrough, however.
IU Coach Todd Yeagley said after the match, the better team wasn’t the team raising the trophy at the end of the day.
“I know this group, they want to win,” Yeagley said. “They’re very present, so this hurts. It’s not about what we wanted to do well here to position ourselves for the NCAA Tournament, they wanted to win. They’re going to be motivated because it’s a motivated group, so I don’t think this result will change. It wouldn’t have changed it if we won or we lost.”
Since Sunday's match ended in a 0-0 draw after overtime, IU is still undefeated for the 2017 season.
IU's 15-0-5 record will now be evaluated by the NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament selection committee, as the Hoosiers will learn their seeding for the tournament tomorrow.
“This one we have to quickly move on from,” Yeagley said.
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