Heartbreak and pandemonium erupted at Bill Armstrong Stadium on Sunday afternoon, but it wasn’t IU men’s soccer doing the celebrating.
After playing a scoreless 100 minutes against the University of California, Santa Barbara, all it took was a single miscue from IU’s defense in the 102nd minute that allowed the Gauchos’ Will Baynham to bury home the game-winner and advance them to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.
It also halted IU’s 38-match home unbeaten streak dead in its tracks.
“It just wasn’t our day,” IU sophomore defender Jack Maher said. “It hurts; it’s going to hurt for years to come. But we’re going to grow from it. I can guarantee that.”
With the November weather conditions ushering in sub-40 degree temperatures and a steady mix of rain and snow, both teams had a tough time adapting their play styles.
Not only did IU have trouble executing its offense with the gusting winds, it also made for a slick playing surface that eventually cost it the match.
A handful of Hoosiers lost their footing at crucial moments throughout the rain-soaked day, but none bigger than IU redshirt senior defender Jordan Kleyn’s mishap in double overtime.
At the 101:20 mark, Kleyn, acting as IU’s last line of defense, set himself up just outside IU’s own 20-yard box. A free ball barreled toward Kleyn, but as he planted his foot to clear the ball, he slipped on the wet turf beneath him and broke open the floodgates for imminent disaster.
“We have all the confidence that Kleyn can step in and do the job,” Maher said. “One slip can’t really define a full performance. What he meant in his time here at Indiana is one that we will remember for a really long time.”
The eventual golden-goal for Baynham was a laser shot over the outstretched arms of IU freshman goalkeeper Roman Celentano that tucked itself just inside the right goal post.
As the seconds ticked by and the emotion of what had just taken place set in, several upset Hoosiers scattered their bodies onto the turf. Tears were shed, frustration illuminated and several college careers had officially taken their last gasps of breath.
“There’s not much you can say at this point,“ IU junior defender Spencer Glass said. “It’s just how you respond to it, bounce back and learn from the situations.”
Much can be said about what this youthful, inexperienced IU team accomplished this season, but for it to end in the most improbable fashion that it did, few IU players took solace in their Sweet Sixteen run.
“A lot of teams are putting banners up for Sweet Sixteens,” IU head coach Todd Yeagley said. “When you’ve been to 20 College Cups, yeah it doesn’t seem like it’s as far as you’d like to go.”
Now as the offseason looms, perhaps sooner than many expected, self-reflection becomes IU’s coping mechanism. With a roster chock-full of newcomers, many have little experience with heartbreak; others are unfamiliar with defeat.
As the last sliver of IU’s former candle light burns its final wick, and with it the remnants of old, a new era of IU men’s soccer begins to slowly take shape.
It’s likely that the Hoosiers’ roster next season sees plenty of new faces once again, but as Yeagley continues to build toward his ninth national championship, the pain of this season will linger.
For better or worse, Baynham’s shot won’t soon be forgotten. But whether IU uses that to fuel its growing hunger for the elusive ninth ring, that remains to be seen.
“We’ve come a long way,” Yeagley said. “The maturity of our young players, I feel like they’re two years older now than when they got here."
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