On paper, two wins against Maryland make it look as if the third time around will be no different and that IU’s spot in the National Championship is almost solidified.
But it’s tough to beat a team three times in one season, especially when the first two games were on the verge of going in Maryland’s favor.
Game 1: Oct. 12 in Bloomington
In the 31st minute, senior Austin Panchot sent in a corner that senior Andrew Gutman finished off. The Hoosiers closed out the first half looking dominant and showed no signs of letting up. But just 10 minutes into the second half Maryland’s Paul Bin rocketed a shot to the upper 90 that froze sophomore goalkeeper Trey Muse.
As the clock wound down with the score knotted at one, it felt as if history was going to repeat itself. Prior to this game, IU had gone to overtime with Maryland for four straight years and had not defeated the Terrapins since 2004.
The difference between this year’s IU team and last year’s is that the Hoosiers don’t settle. The team is comprised of winners.
So that’s why with 18 seconds left in regulation, senior Rece Buckmaster crossed it to the far post where Gutman put the nail in the coffin.
IU won 2-1.
Game 2: Nov. 9 in Westfield, Indiana
Gutman, the Terrapin terrorizer, tortured the Terps once again.
In the 60th minute, the defender took the ball from midfield and weaved his way through eight Maryland defenders to beat keeper Dayne St. Claire and put the Hoosiers up 1-0.
It felt as if IU was in complete control and was going to punch its ticket to the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
But a defensive miscue left Maryland’s Ben Di Rosa wide open streaking down the right side of the field, and all he had to do was beat Muse, which he did by keeping it low in the left corner.
Deadlocked at one once more, regulation wasn’t enough to decide a winner. In fact, two 10-minute overtimes weren’t even enough, so the two went to penalty kicks.
Maryland had the 2-1 advantage and St. Claire saved Buckmaster’s shot to really put the Terrapins in the driver seat. Not to be outdone, Muse saved the next shot, and then the next shot, and then IU regained control.
Tied at three, senior Cory Thomas was the fifth Hoosier up, and he drilled it.
IU won 1-1, 4-3 in PK’s.
Game 3: Dec. 7 in Santa Barbara, California
This game means a bit more than the last two.
Both teams have fought their way through the NCAA Tournament to get to this game where the winner goes to the National Championship.
Statistically through the first two games, IU leads in shots 32-21, but shots on goal are in favor of Maryland 10-9.
Muse has eight saves to St. Claire’s six, and IU leads in corners 21-8.
Again, the Hoosiers seem to have the advantage based on the first two games.
But ever since Maryland lost to IU in the Big Ten Tournament, it has not allowed one goal while scoring five and defeating the likes of No. 10 Duke and No. 3 Kentucky.
The Terrapins are rolling with momentum and have an athletic keeper in St. Claire and one of the best defensive players in the country in Donovan Pines, who is also a big threat on set pieces with his 6-foot-5-inch frame.
As well as Maryland is playing, IU is also at the top of its game. From top to bottom, the Hoosiers lineup is filled with elite talent and in no way does this team plan on going home.
Maryland Coach Sasho Cirovski said earlier this season that he believes Gutman is the best player in the nation. After what Gutman has done to Maryland so far this season, expect Cirovski’s game plan to revolve around shutting him down. But even if Gutman is the priority, IU has many other weapons to score.
But one way or another Maryland seems to find a way to make things too close for comfort for IU.
Will the third time be a charm for Maryland, or will IU get back to the promised land?
This is what the College Cup is all about.