After a red card left IU men’s soccer down a man, head coach Todd Yeagley told his team it would be in a great spot if it got to penalties.
The Hoosiers did just that on Saturday, surviving double overtime tied 1-1 before beating Penn State in penalty kicks 3-2 to clinch its third consecutive Big Ten Tournament championship.
“We just had to dig deeper,” Yeagley said in a postgame Zoom conference. “I thought we made it somewhat predictable on what we gave them. And then [sophomore goalkeeper] Roman [Celentano] and our defenders handled that pretty well. They didn’t really get much in the overtime.”
The Hoosiers barely made it to penalty kicks after a rough sequence of events that sent the game to overtime.
In the 82nd minute, freshman defender Joey Maher was given a red card. A Penn State forward slipped by him, and Maher took him down to prevent the breakaway chance. Just 17 seconds later, Penn State equalized the score at 1-1.
“The minutes were long,” Celentano said. “As a team we just started taking it minute by minute, manage the moments and just try to take it as long as we could.”
IU, now down to 10 men for the remainder of the game, went from in command to struggling to keep the game in its control.
But the Hoosiers were undeterred.
The defense remained as steady as it had all season, closing off Penn State chances and keeping it tied after two overtime periods.
The game went to penalty kicks, emphasizing a matchup between the Big Ten’s two best goalkeepers.
After Penn State’s first penalty kick sailed over the bar, Celentano made two saves. The third, the one that clinched the game, bounced off Celentano’s outstretched hand, off the post, then bounced back across to the other side.
“I touched it onto the bar, onto the post,” Celentano said. “When I did that I thought it went in so I was kinda disappointed. Then I spun around and saw it went out. It was a fortunate bounce for me, and I was pretty happy.”
IU made its first three penalty kicks to give the team the 3-2 advantage in penalty kicks that won them the tournament.
Sophomore forward Victor Bezerra and Celentano were named the Offensive and Defensive Players of the Tournament, respectively. Sophomore defender Daniel Munie joined the two on the All-Tournament team.
Bezerra scored IU’s only goal of regulation. Late in the first half, Bezerra and sophomore forward Ryan Wittenbrink linked up on a one-two that Bezerra finished by drilling into the bottom left corner of the goal.
Bezerra, and his five tournament goals, outscored IU’s tournament opponents. But Penn State’s goal Saturday was the only tournament goal IU allowed, so a more sufficient comparison is Bezerra outscoring all of IU’s opponents in 2021, 5-3.
After winning the Big Ten regular season title after IU’s game against Maryland was canceled, the Hoosiers didn’t get a full on-field celebration. It made the one Saturday even more special.
“They were really enjoying every minute on the field together after the game,” Yeagley said. “It was just fun to see their excitement and joy and how much work they put it to get that moment together. To do it at home and celebrate in the locker room after, have some fun, was really fun for everyone.”
IU will find out its seed and first round matchup show at noon Monday during the selection show for the NCAA Tournament.