All night, the Hoosiers were fighting for just one goal. An aggressive first half seemed to indicate a high-scoring night, but the ball could not find the back of the net.
Between tight defense from No. 22 Maryland’s freshman goalkeeper Niklas Neumann and missed opportunities close to the goal, No. 8 IU men’s soccer could not seem to finish.
These missed chances took this Big Ten semifinal match into double overtime, but it was IU that pulled away with a 1-0 victory.
Friday’s contest featured two aggressive teams with 12 combined national titles. The Terrapins won the recent match 3-0 between these teams at Ludwig Field, but the Hoosiers were relentless from start to finish.
“We were surging, and it was chance after chance,” IU head coach Todd Yeagley said.
IU popped off nine shots in the first half, four of them on goal. None of them found the back of the net, however, as Neumann deflected every ball out of the box.
The Hoosiers kept the ball on Maryland’s side of the field for nearly the entire first half. The attackers and backline pressured the Terrapins’ offense with a high press.
IU torched Maryland’s defense with juke moves and quick passing, generating multiple shot opportunities. Fancy footwork was not enough for the Hoosier offense, however.
Multiple missed opportunities contributed to a long night in College Park.
Freshman forward Joshua Penn had open looks off solid through balls but was unable to get the ball into the goal.
Junior midfielder Spencer Glass tore through Maryland’s defense and laced many balls into the box for Penn and other teammates during that first half as well.
The left back’s accuracy was spot-on the entire night with his left crosses and corner kicks, but his teammates were unable to give him an assist.
Toward the end of the first half, IU’s bench provided a brief spark with counters in front of the midfield line. They were clinical in passing the ball upfield and keeping IU’s offense in Maryland territory.
Senior forward Joris Ahlinvi made his return off the bench and contributed to the Hoosiers’ ball movement and pressure on the Terrapins’ forwards.
“Joris has been the ace in our deck this whole time,” Yeagley said. “The guys that came on all gave us a lift and continued to give us more in that late phase.”
Neumann’s stellar performance at goal, combined with missed opportunities and whiffed kicks, continued to be the main culprits as to why the second period lacked any Hoosier goals.
Two minutes in, Penn got a shot on frame from roughly 10 yards out, but it was blocked by Neumann. The Terrapins’ goalie finished the night with a career high eight saves.
IU proceeded to get shots from Glass, Penn and freshman forward Victor Bezerra and led Maryland 13-4 in shot attempts by the 65th minute. Nevertheless, the open shots were not going in.
Around the 75 minute mark, Glass kicked a bull's-eye to junior defender A.J. Palazzolo, who was running down the right side of the box. Palazzolo, however, caught the ball with the wrong part of his foot and kicked it right of the post.
With 1:53 remaining, freshman midfielder Aidan Morris drew a foul and had a free kick from less than 20 yards away. Once again, it was Neumann who took away an open opportunity, leaping to his right and deflecting the ball out.
By the end of regulation, IU was leading 20-5 in shots with 11 of its shots on goal. The team also had 12 corners compared to Maryland’s three but could not capitalize.
The first overtime’s only highlight and major missed chance to end the match came, once again, from Glass and Palazzolo. With about a minute left, Glass drove down the left sideline and saw Palazzolo cutting in.
Neumann was on the left side of the goal, and Glass crossed it into the right side of the goal box. Seeing the ball and sliding in, Palazzolo slid to tap the ball in and missed it.
Shouts of “he had that” went through a stunned audience, but Glass and IU kept composure and found the right opportunity.
Early in the final overtime period, Penn dribbled around defenders, set up his shot near the box and kicked the ball with his left foot. It hit off a Terrapin hand for a hand ball.
Of all Hoosiers to take the penalty kick, Yeagley chose sophomore defender Jack Maher.
Following his winning penalty kick against Michigan State, Maher stepped forward, and all eyes locked in on Neumann and the conference’s defender of the year.
At the end of the exchange, it was Maher who got the only ball of the night past Neumann and sent IU to the conference championship.
“I’ve been hot in practice lately, and I have all the confidence that the rest of the guys on the field can get it done,” Maher said. “Coach called my name, just happy to be in this position.”
This victory was the sixth straight for IU and the third consecutive defensive shutout. It also marked the first time IU defeated Maryland in College Park since 2000.
IU will have one night off before contending with Michigan for the conference championship at 2 p.m.
Maher and IU knocked off Michigan 1-0 at Jerry Yeagley Field in the only meeting between these teams Oct. 13.
“Michigan is a team that’s always difficult to find a result against, but I feel really confident on where the team’s trending right now,” Maher said.
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