Freshman midfielder Aidan Morris overpowered an Ohio State defender, stole the ball and launched it upfield. The next minute, Morris was clutching his face at the midfield circle.
Sophomore defender Jack Maher came to his teammate’s aid and immediately shouted down the field at the referee. Maher raised his elbow and swung it in a jabbing motion.
Morris had taken a cheap shot, and Maher knew it.
“I didn’t see it so I said, ‘Hey, we’ll let the video solve it,’” IU head coach Todd Yeagley said. “The video can be an equalizer, and we don’t have to be emotional about it.”
The referees stopped the clock to review the play in accordance with the NCAA’s violent conduct policy. A minute later, a referee called out Buckeye sophomore forward Devyn Etling and raised his red card.
Five minutes prior, Etling earned his first yellow card when he got into a scuffle with IU freshman forward Victor Bezerra.
When the red card went up in the air, Etling raised his arms in confusion and anger. The Buckeye realized his afternoon and season were over.
Sunday’s Big Ten quarterfinals match started with verbal warnings and ended with yellow cards and Etling’s ejection. At the end of it all, No. 9 IU men’s soccer took the match 2-0 and advanced to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
Bickering between the opposing teams along with the players and referees highlighted a match with high tensions and high stakes.
“A lot of talking with the referee today and that can fuel both teams,” Yeagley said. “It can put a match on that fire and let both teams start thinking that’s what this game is going to be today.”
Etling was chirping back-and-forth with the Hoosiers throughout the afternoon as well as with the referees.
In the first half, freshman defender Daniel Munie soiled multiple chances for Etling to take opportunities with through balls. The two were grabbing at each other's arms and jerseys, fighting for positioning with Munie getting the better of Etling nearly every time.
After Ohio State’s senior defender Osman Fofanah earned the first yellow card midway through the first half, Bezerra picked up the second with a physical play near the midfield line.
Bezerra sat out during the second half, nursing a hamstring injury that might have flared up during the match. Yeagley, however, said it was a strategic move to rest him.
In the 42nd minute, freshman forward Joshua Penn scored his team-high sixth goal of the season.
Despite the lead going into the second half, the yellow cards and physical interactions were telling of the high tensions.
“Every team is gonna battle like it’s their last fight,” junior midfielder Spencer Glass said. “We have some intense guys that are going to battle into things, but you don’t want to retaliate or have something stupid happen like how the red card did off the ball.”
Going into the second half, Ohio State knew that its season was in jeopardy. Its physicality picked up, but its offense didn’t.
Junior defender AJ Palazzolo was a nuisance to the Buckeye offense, cutting off passes and kicking the ball out of Buckeye territory.
Following the exchange between Etling and Morris, it was Palazzolo’s turn to feel Ohio State’s aggressiveness.
Palazzolo found himself on the ground after sliding tackles away from the ball took him off his feet. In the latter part of the second half, after he was called for offsides, Palazzolo was pushed to the ground by junior midfielder Mitch Bergman.
Moments later it was Maher’s turn.
The conference’s defensive player of the year was laid flat on his back on a late foul call just south of midfield. Maher grabbed his right knee as his team huddled around him.
“That’s your brother out there getting hit, so you kinda want to fight for him, but it’s a matter of not losing your head,” Glass said.
Maher eventually got to his feet and resumed the next few minutes with a limp on his right leg. He was ultimately in good shape at the end of the game.
With less than 10 minutes left, Palazzolo put the icing on the cake, coasting past defenders and kicking home IU’s second goal of the game.
The Hoosiers travel to College Park, Maryland, Friday for the semifinals. This will be the second time this season that the Hoosiers return to Maryland after losing 3-0 to the No. 24 Terrapins.
“We have a title on the line, and we know there’s another game for us. We earned that,” Yeagley said. “I told the guys, ‘You don't want to stay at home and watch the semifinals on TV; it’s not a good feeling. You want to be where the trophy is.”
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