On Oct. 29, IU and Michigan State came into their final Big Ten regular season match tied on points with the conference title up for grabs.
After a 1-1 draw between the Hoosiers and Spartans, it was the Michigan Wolverines who ended up winning the conference.
The Wolverines snatched the title from the grasp of both the Hoosiers and Spartans. IU had a chance to complete its first goal of the season by winning the conference regular season title.
Instead, they couldn’t get past the stingy Spartans.
Now as the No. 2-seed Hoosiers sit one win away from the College Cup, there is a revenge factor for both teams as IU prepares to play No. 7-seed Michigan State at 7 p.m. Friday night at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
“The team’s excited to play Michigan State because they knew it was an opportunity that slipped by a little bit at their place,” IU Coach Todd Yeagley said. “A little bit of getting another shot at that game. Meant a lot a month ago, now it’s a new opportunity.”
The IU program has been a staple in the College Cup since the Hoosiers became a varsity program in 1973. The Hoosiers have been to the College Cup an NCAA-record 18 times.
However, IU hasn’t advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament since 2012, the last time it won a title.
Advancing past Michigan State is all that stands in IU's way of reaching the College Cup for the 19th time.
“You just have to look at it that we lose and we’re done,” junior defender Andrew Gutman said. “It’s just every game, one game at a time, and if you win, you advance. That’s how we’ve been taking it, day by day, not looking too far ahead to what’s next.”
The last time these two teams played, it was a match that offered a lot of physicality, but no goals through the run of play. Junior forward Ryan Sierakowski will lead the charge for the Spartans. He has eight goals on the season.
Sierakowski will be complemented by fellow junior forward DeJuan Jones, who is second on the team in goals with seven.
But just like IU, Michigan State has a tremendous goalkeeper. Junior Jimmy Hague, the Big Ten goalkeeper of the year, has been a major part of the Spartans’ success throughout the season.
“We know Michigan State pretty well, they know us pretty well, and they’re a good team,” senior defender Grant Lillard said. “The focus for us is to execute what we want to do well. They’re a good defensive team, tough to break down, so connecting simple passes and being dangerous in the final third and finishing in the final moments is going to be important come game time.”
After the devastation of losing in penalty kicks to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament Final and not winning the regular season title, it was said over and over by IU players that none of that would matter if they could take care of business in the NCAA Tournament.
Friday is their chance.
“Last year we were really good, but we didn’t have the key components to make a deep run,” Gutman said. “This year we have it. It’s a lot more fluid in the offense. A lot more key guys are contributing and are finding a lot of success.”
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