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Sloppy ball control ends season for IU men’s soccer



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Freshman Victor Bezerra rests on his knees after IU was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by the University of California, Santa Barbara on Dec. 1 at Bill Armstrong Stadium. UCSB slotted the ball past freshman IU goalkeeper Roman Celentano in the second period of overtime. Sam House Buy Photos

Rain and snow were not ideal conditions Sunday, but neither was the ball control for No. 5 IU men’s soccer. 

Time and time again IU lost control of the ball, and it cost them in a 1-0 loss in double overtime against the University of California, Santa Barbara. This was the first loss at Jerry Yeagley Field in 38 matches.

“Congratulations to Santa Barbara,” IU head coach Todd Yeagley said. “They’re a good team and gave us a lot to deal with, certainly in that first half.”

The Gauchos controlled the ball for the first 45 minutes, sending crisp passes around the field and locking down the Hoosiers’ ball movement. 

IU struggled to make plays with an airtight high press from UCSB. Passes could not get across the midfield line, and IU’s forwards were unable to get plays rolling.

When the Hoosiers managed to dart down the field off a counter, the players either ran into traffic and turned the ball over or sent passes that were intercepted.

In the 25th minute, freshman forward Joshua Penn overshot a pass to senior defender Simon Waever on the right side of the box. Oversights like this characterized much of IU’s failed attempts to get on the board.

Corner kicks were another feature of IU’s struggles to develop a fluid offense.

Freshman midfielder Aidan Morris could not seem to land the ball in the right spot around the box as it sailed over sophomore defender Jack Maher or hit the wall of UCSB’s defenders who cleared it out.

Maher took six on the afternoon, but IU could not set up open opportunities for goals.

Freshman forward Victor Bezerra, IU’s leading scorer in the NCAA Tournament, was shut down and roughed up by the UCSB defense. His yellow card and four fouls echoed his frustration as physical defense and sloppy passing from his teammates prevented him from getting the ball.

IU had more possessions to work with in the second half as its passing saw improvements. Junior defender A.J. Palazzolo found his teammates with crosses into the box and through balls to set up a few shots. 

Despite Palazzolo and the team’s efforts, they were getting outbodied on second balls and surrendered further opportunities along the sidelines to push the ball ahead to open forwards.

“They did a good job at the very beginning pressing us pretty quick, but the wind played a huge factor today,” junior midfielder Spencer Glass said. “Second balls were kinda key today that whoever could get on the end of those could help the possession.”

UCSB was physical and decisive, outnumbering IU on the second balls. This inability to control the field and get the ball where it needed it to be prevented IU from scoring during regulation.

Overtime was much of the same for the Hoosiers on offense as its opportunity in the 98th minute to put the Gauchos away resulted in a missed shot. Palazzolo placed a solid through ball to senior forward Joris Ahlinvi, who put too much power on an open shot.

This was perhaps IU’s best offensive play of the afternoon. But it could not convert, and the second overtime began.

After seemingly stopping UCSB from scoring in the 102nd minute, senior defender Jordan Kleyn slipped up and allowed UCSB’s senior forward Will Baynham to get the golden goal. 

“It hurts,” Maher said. “It’s gonna hurt for years to come but we’re gonna grow from it. I can guarantee you that."

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