The game against Stanford on Dec. 10, 2017, hasn’t been discussed much over the past eight months.
Regardless, the sour taste of the 1-0, double-overtime loss in last year's National Championship still remains.
This weekend, the IU men’s soccer team begins its season with a chance to get rid of that taste.
But, that’s not even on the team’s conscience as it heads into two road games in two days against top-five opponents, which are two “Final Four-caliber teams” as Coach Todd Yeagley put it.
Yeagley said one of the reasons the team was successful last year was because they were present in the moment. They didn’t look too far ahead and just focused on the task at hand. Yeagley challenges this year's group to do the same.
The first test will be against No. 5-ranked Wake Forest Friday night at 7:30 p.m. The last time the two teams met was in 2015 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament when Wake Forest was ranked No. 1. The Demon Deacons beat the Hoosiers 1-0.
Last season, Wake Forest went 19-2-2 and faced a similar fate as IU, losing 2-0 to Stanford in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.
Wake Forest is led by senior midfielder Brad Dunwell, who is ranked by Top Drawer Soccer as the third best player in the nation.
“He’s their engine,” Yeagley said. “He dictates much of their flow and we’ll be aware when we send players up the field.”
One of the players ranked above Dunwell is IU senior defender Andrew Gutman, who is ranked second.
Gutman said the accolade is a great honor, but he’d rather produce trophies as a team. He simply said, to “get wins,” is the mindset heading into this weekend.
The Hoosiers will have Saturday off and won’t have to travel far for their opponent on Sunday. It’s about an hour and a half from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Cary, North Carolina, where the rematch from last year’s College Cup semifinals will take place between No. 2 IU vs No. 3 North Carolina.
Last year, IU beat UNC 1-0 after Gutman finished off a corner kick in the 50th minute.
“Obviously we have to get through Wake Forest first, but North Carolina will definitely want some revenge on us,” Gutman said. “They are going to bring their best and we just have to match it.”
IU played three preseason exhibition games, and two of them came against top-10 teams in No. 6 Louisville and No. 4 Akron.
IU lost to Louisville 1-0 and played Akron to a 1-1 draw.
“We play for a program where we are used to these big games,” senior midfielder Francesco Moore said. “The preseason was a great test for us, and I think we are ready.”
With no more Grant Lillard on the backline and Mason Toye on the attack, Yeagley is still confident he can fill those gaps.
The versatility of sophomore defender A.J. Palazzolo, the experience and attack of senior midfielder Corey Thomas, as well as junior defender Jordan Kleyn and freshman defender Jack Maher were just a few names Yeagley mentioned that can help fill the absence of Lillard and Toye.
As much as last year’s heartbreak has been pushed aside, Yeagley still talks about the season, but he tells the team everything they did right for the whole year.
He said he hopes they will follow that mindset again this season.
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