Stop if you’ve heard this before: forward Victor Bezerra paves the path for an IU victory.
The sophomore from Chicago came up big once again by scoring two second-half goals in No. 1-seed IU’s 2-0 victory over No. 4-seed Maryland on Wednesday night at Bill Armstrong Stadium. The Hoosiers extend their winning streak to seven and advance to the Big Ten Tournament championship for the fourth consecutive year.
Bezerra’s two goals raise his season total to 10 in as many games. The Big Ten offensive player of the year now has three more goals than any player in the conference.
“Vic’s a special finisher,” head coach Todd Yeagley said after the game. “We said it heading into the year. I was pretty straight-forward when people asked where the goals would come from.”
Deadlocked at 0-0 entering the second half, Bezerra opened up the scoring in a hurry. In the 46th minute, he volleyed a cross in-stride from junior defender Nyk Sessock and breezed it past Maryland freshman goalkeeper Jamie Lowell.
Sessock has taken the position of senior defender Spencer Glass, who is out for the season with a broken leg.
“It’s really good to have Nyk perform at this level especially with the loss of Spencer,” Yeagley said.
Bezerra wasn’t done there.
IU received a free kick from far outside the box after Maryland junior defender Brett St. Martin’s challenge was flagged for a foul. In the 56th minute, Bezerra rocketed a ground strike past the Maryland wall, off the near post and into the net for his second goal of the day.
Bezerra has registered some filthy goals in his career, but that bullseye missile might have topped them all.
“He’s a natural player,” sophomore goalkeeper Roman Celentano said. “The ball just flies off his foot. It’s effortless.”
Even though his only goals came in the second half, Bezerra was a threat in the first as well.
In the 23rd minute, he let one rip closer to the center line than the endline. I mean, would you think that was a shot? The limited crowd gasped as Lowell had to jump up with his hand stretched out to tip it over the crossbar and out of play.
In the 43rd minute, he showcased a couple dribbling moves to create just enough space for a shot. Although it didn’t reach the velocity as his others, he placed it on net and forced Lowell to make a save.
“I thought we got in some dangerous spots in the first 45 minutes but weren’t sharp with our final pass or decision,” Yeagley said.
Bezerra is already cementing his IU legacy. His 18 career goals are the most in the first two seasons for an IU player since Eriq Zavaleta in 2011-12. On top of that, he set a program record with four Big Ten Tournament goals after notching two in the quarterfinals against Northwestern.
“He’s certainly leaving his mark and well on his way to paving a path for a future pro career,” Yeagley said.
The Hoosiers will face No. 2-seed Penn State in the final at 5 p.m. Saturday in Bloomington. It will be the schools’ first matchup of the season because the March 7 game was canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests in the Nittany Lions program.
Yeagley believes his team is ready to win its third consecutive conference tournament title.
“Now, the guys are really focused on getting another title,” Yeagley said.