All night, IU’s defense kept the University of Kentucky from getting open looks. The Wildcats had taken five shots, but only one managed to threaten the net. That changed in the 56th minute.
Freshman goalkeeper Roman Celentano stared down Kentucky’s sophomore midfielder Brock Lindow, saw a brief gap in his team’s defense and knew he would have to defend the goal.
Lindow saw his shot, but Celentano saw it too. The freshman dove to his left and hammered the ball away, keeping the game scoreless and giving IU a chance to dart down the field with the ball.
Celentano made his debut at Jerry Yeagley Field on Wednesday in No. 4 IU’s scoreless stalemate with No. 16 Kentucky. This was the freshman’s third consecutive start and first career shutout, a game he said he’ll always remember.
“It’s good to get on the field and get a clean sheet,” Celentano said. “Coach Celo has been a great help, and everyone has been supportive.”
The Hoosiers protected the net in their back-and-forth match with the Wildcats. Both teams got off just five shots in the first half with only one of them being on frame.
Celentano’s first-half save came off a Kentucky corner kick as he sprang into the air and stopped a header from finding its way into the right side of the goal. The Illinois native also took charge interrupting passes, bolting out of the goal box and taking away offensive opportunities for Kentucky.
“I really felt comfortable every time it was played in the box and that Roman felt in control,” IU head coach Todd Yeagley said. “For a true freshman, to handle as much restart pressure in a game, he’s an equalizer.”
His early second-half save was a crucial element that kept the Hoosiers in the match. On top of that, the goalkeeper had three saves and laser focus during restarts.
Off corner and free kicks, Celentano rammed through traffic and snatched passes intended to find the heads of the Wildcat forwards.
“I’m a little more aggressive than most traditional goalkeepers,” Celentano said. “The game demands it sometimes.”
His presence caused the shape of Kentucky’s offense to reconfigure, allowing IU junior defender A.J. Palazzolo and senior defender Simon Waever to kick the ball upfield.
“Roman is wise beyond his years as a goalkeeper, very calm on the ball, very certain in his decision making,” Waever said. “There was great communication between Roman and the backline.”
Overtime featured more of the same from Celentano and IU’s defense.
Chaos at the net in the first OT nearly gave Kentucky’s program its first win in Bloomington. Sophomore defender Jack Maher and Celentano, however, prevented balls from breaking through the goal line and got the ball away from the danger zone.
The 7-1-3 Hoosiers return to conference play against Michigan at 3 p.m Sunday. This will be IU’s last match before hitting the road and taking on Maryland.
Yeagley said he could see Kentucky and IU squaring off in the NCAA tournament, but for now, his eyes are locked on the Wolverines.
“The challenge is how we recover for such a big game Sunday,” Yeagley said. “I can’t look past Michigan right now.”
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