When you see all of the things IU has done on the pitch in 2017, it seems almost cruel that its season ended the way it did Sunday in Chester, Pennsylvania.
The 966 straight minutes without giving up a goal was a program record and ranked fourth all-time in NCAA history. The undefeated regular season was the first in program history since 1997. The Hoosiers were also the last undefeated team remaining in the country.
And still in the end, the Hoosiers were unable to accomplish the three goals set forth by their captain, IU senior center back Grant Lillard, from the being of the season.
“Our guys, I thought, had a special year, and we often say that the best mark you can leave is putting a star on the jersey, and it was really close,” IU Coach Todd Yeagley said. “I do know this team will be talked about now, next year and many years to come on what they did as a group.”
Along with the defense that was statistically the best in the country, the offense was also clicking throughout the season. Through the 25 matches played, the IU offense scored 49 goals. IU scored five or more goals in three matches, which is the most since the 2005 campaign. Just a season ago, the Hoosiers scored just 30 goals in 21 matches.
Leading the charge was the freshmen class that burst onto the scene in 2017. Freshman forward Mason Toye finished with the team lead in goals at 10. Freshman winger Griffin Dorsey was successful in his debut season with three goals and six assists. Then, there was freshman goalkeeper Trey Muse, who saved 65 balls with a save percentage of .903. Muse also shutout opponents 18 different times as well.
Along with the freshmen, the experience within the squad was also something that helped the Hoosiers. Led by Lillard at the back and junior Francesco Moore in the midfield, the leadership core was there. Still, when you look at the trophy case for 2017, the big three trophies they could have earned won’t be there.
"Their goal is to put something in the trophy case, put a star on the jersey, but it doesn't define it," Yeagley said. "I know they'll be really proud of what they've done and know they've helped carry on a really special tradition at Indiana, but it's going to take a while to feel that. But I think they will, I know they will.”
Even though they didn’t reach the last goal they wanted, it’s hard to say the 2017 season wasn’t successful. They didn’t lose until the final match of the season. Making a College Cup is also something the Hoosiers can look back on as a positive.
The mood after Sunday’s loss at Talen Energy Stadium was obviously down, but there were many positives to takeaway.
Looking ahead at 2018, the Hoosiers only plan on losing four players— seniors Lillard, Rashad Hyacenth, Josh Lipe-Melton and Jack Griffith. Lillard is the only starter of those four. The Hoosiers are also expecting junior midfielder Jeremiah Gutjahr to return from injury foe next season as well.
So, even though IU’s ninth national title will have to wait to be won for another season, there are a lot of positives to look back on and maybe more to look forward to in 2018. All Yeagley could do after Sunday’s loss was praise his team.
“I'm just really proud of this team,” Yeagley said. “They're a really fun team to coach and they represent Indiana with a lot of distinction and make a lot of us proud.”
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