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COLUMN: IU’s season ends in a cruel way


IU coaches, players and fans watch as Stanford is presented the 2017 NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament Championship trophy after beating IU 1-0 in overtime on Dec. 10 at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. This was Stanford's third title win in a row. Noble Guyon Buy Photos

IU’s 2017 season came crashing down in overtime of the national championship against No. 9 Stanford.

A decorated season with various honors was overshadowed by Stanford junior midfielder Sam Werner, who ended the Hoosiers’ season in double-overtime of the College Cup final with a goal. It was Stanford’s third consecutive title, and the Hoosiers were left to wonder how they let their ninth title escape their grasps.

Freshman attacker Griffin Dorsey settled a Stanford cross in his own box, and his attempted fake-shot step-over was intercepted by Werner, who then put a ball over the head of freshman goalkeeper Trey Muse. The one of few defensive mistakes came at a costly moment for IU, who had been arguably the best team from the back all season.

The Hoosiers’ season started with defense and was then built around a stout backline.

The defense, along with Muse, had a solid stretch of clean sheet soccer this season, totaling 966 minutes and 28 seconds, good enough for the fourth-longest shutout streak in NCAA history.

They also managed to complete this feat while losing one of the most-crucial midfielders and starting right back to injury in junior midfielder Jeremiah Gutjahr and sophomore defender Jordan Kleyn.

A quick position change for junior defender Rece Buckmaster and slotting junior midfielder Austin Panchot in the center of the pitch saw IU cope with their losses in a seamless way. The team did not skip a beat without two of their prized players, and they continued to dominate week-in and week-out.

IU had the perfect blend of veteran defense and leadership with a sprinkle of freshman talent that was prolific throughout the season. Those freshman played a key role for the Hoosiers. They filled the goal-scoring void that was the biggest question mark for this team coming into the season, and they showed no signs of fear from day one.

But it did not matter for Stanford, and they made IU pay for one of their few defensive mistakes of the game. The move was something that the Hoosiers’ opponents had failed to do throughout the season.

“I want to win a Big Ten regular season,” senior defender Grant Lillard said earlier this season. “I want to win a Big Ten (tournament) championship, and I want to win a national championship.”

Lillard’s goals were clear since the beginning of the year, and they were set for the rest of his team as well.

One of the most consistent teams in the country, the Hoosiers had never trailed in a game all season until their Elite Eight matchup against Michigan State. They hold an NCAA record which will be cemented in collegiate soccer history. They have a College Cup berth, IU’s first since 2012. 

Yet, looking back, they could not complete any of the goals that they had set.

The Hoosiers had every goal in their grasps. They had it in East Lansing for the Big Ten regular season, they had it in Westfield for the Big Ten tournament and they had it in the College Cup. Every single time, their goals went unfulfilled. 

“It’s difficult,” IU Coach Todd Yeagley said. “I think some of our best teams through the years, many of them haven’t been able to bring home hardware, certainly the most coveted. That’s tough because this team did so many things and was a bit short. I think if that’s all you evaluate your experience, it’s a bit narrow, and our guys don’t. It’s their goal to put something in the trophy case and put a star on their jersey. But it doesn’t define it.”

It is tough to swallow if you are a Hoosier fan, but in retrospect, this season ended in the cruelest way possible, in the one area of the pitch which had been the most consistent throughout the year.

With soccer, though, one mistake can make a team pay. That mistake happened to come from the Hoosiers on Sunday afternoon and it kept them from winning their ninth championship in program history.


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