Senior midfielder Trevor Swartz couldn’t help but crack a smile and give off a slight laugh when asked about the pressure of the College Cup.
The fifth-year senior has been in this position before. Exactly one year ago to be exact.
As the No. 2-seeded Hoosiers are the highest ranked team remaining, there’s an aura of calmness and relaxation around the team. This is the Hoosiers' second straight trip to the College Cup and their 20th overall in program history.
IU punched it’s ticket to Santa Barbara, California, by defeating Connecticut, Air Force and No. 7-seeded Notre Dame with a combined score of 7-0. It’s been nothing short of a dominant postseason run for the Hoosiers.
“I think when you go into a College Cup, no matter what seed you are, every team there is good,” Swartz said. “We’re just playing for a spot in the final right now, so there’s no added pressure. You’ve just got to go out there and perform.”
Due to the Hoosiers holding the record for most College Cup appearances, the team has joked around with the title of the national semifinals basically becoming the “Indiana Invitational."
This year's participants in the "Indiana Invitational" are three opponents IU is very familiar with, including a pair of Big Ten foes.
The opposite side of the bracket features the University of Akron and Michigan State, two teams that weren’t given a top-16 seed heading into the tournament, but both pulled off major upsets to get to this point.
This College Cup will be the first time in four seasons that Stanford won’t be participating in after winning three straight National Championships. Stanford lost in the quarterfinals to Akron 3-0. The Zips have won eight straight games with their last loss coming on Oct. 20 against Northern Illinois.
Akron started the season ranked No. 4 in the country before hitting a rough patch in the middle of the season. IU and Akron played to a 1-1 draw in an exhibition game in August. The last time the College Cup was in Santa Barbara was in 2010, where Akron won the National Championship.
Michigan State clinched it’s first College Cup berth since 1968 after defeating the University of Illinois-Chicago, No. 13-seeded Georgetown, No. 4-seeded Louisville and James Madison.
In the regular season finale when IU defeated MSU in overtime, 1-0, keeper Jimmy Hague registered six saves and was the main reason why MSU remained in the game for so long. Hague has 15 saves in the NCAA Tournament and will be a major factor in the matchup against Akron.
Once that game wraps up, IU will take on No. 11-seeded Maryland for the third time this season for a spot in the National Championship.
IU won both matches against Maryland this season, but each of the games came down to the wire. On Oct. 12, a goal with 18 seconds remaining from senior defender Andrew Gutman gave IU the 2-1 victory. Then in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals, IU moved on with a 4-3 advantage in penalty kicks.
After defeating North Carolina State, Maryland had a tough challenge to get to this point. The Terrapins went on the road and knocked off both No. 10-seeded Duke and No. 3-seeded Kentucky to make it to the College Cup. Kentucky gave IU it’s last loss of the season, 3-0, back on Oct.3.
The only goal Maryland has allowed in postseason play was the one that Gutman scored in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals.
Despite each team being familiar with each other, IU doesn’t see it as a disadvantage but just looks forward to the matchup ahead.
“When we looked at the bracket, we thought potentially they could make it, but when you’re in the College Cup, you’re going to have a hard game in the semifinal no matter what,” Swartz said. “Playing a team for the third time, that’s just another challenge in our way and have to get through it.”
With the way that the Hoosiers have performed leading up to this point, it’d be difficult not to call them the favorites, but they don’t mind it.
For IU Coach Todd Yeagley, this trip to the College Cup feels different despite it being the third time he’s brought the Hoosiers to this point. He hasn’t put much thought into it, but he’s familiar with the feeling.
His team is playing their best soccer of the season and are more than ready to capture their ninth star.
“We’re locked in as much as we’ve ever been,” Yeagley said. “That’s what you want, you want the team to find another gear in every phase of their game. I think we’re in that mode right now where everyone is locked in."
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