As the limited crowd roared the loudest it had all night, sophomore goalkeeper Roman Celentano locked in, blocking everything out besides Penn State senior midfielder Callum Pritchatt. IU had a 3-2 advantage through eight kicks, needing a Pritchatt miss or a Celentano save to clinch another Big Ten championship.
First comes the whistle, initiating Pritchatt’s attempt. The senior took one step back, then commenced his path to the ball. Pritchatt struck it well bottom right, but Celentano’s outstretched glove stuffed it before it reached the goal. As if the moment needed any more drama, the ball ricocheted off the post and bordered the goal line, making Celentano question whether his save was enough.
“I first touched it into the post and when I did that, I thought it went in,” Celentano said. “Then I spun around and saw it went out, so I was pretty happy.”
He was so happy that he stood up, stretched his arms out in relief and proceeded to break out in a dance.
After a 1-1 game through 110 minutes, No. 3 IU beat No. 14 Penn State 3-2 in penalty kicks to secure their third consecutive Big Ten Tournament title. It is now the sixth straight Big Ten championship for the Hoosiers including three regular season titles and three tournament titles.
Although the offense created numerous chances, Celentano and the defense were the story of the game. Celentano recorded four saves on top of his two clutch penalty kicks denials. He also allowed only his third goal in 11 games this season.
For the final nine minutes of regulation and all 20 minutes of overtime, the Hoosiers were a man down. Freshman defender Joey Maher picked up a red card in the 81st minute to eliminate a 1-on-1 Penn State opportunity with the goalkeeper.
Seventeen seconds later, the Nittany Lions capitalized with an equalizing goal from sophomore forward Liam Butts. After that, freshman Lawson Redmon and redshirt sophomore Daniel Munie led the back line and squashed Penn State chances with Celentano’s assistance behind them.
Even though Penn State’s attack forced Hoosier fans to hold their breath with a couple chances, the back line halted any further goals.
With accomplished strikers and one of the country’s top goalies in their corner, IU head coach Todd Yeagley was confident as long as they made it to penalty kicks.
“I told the team if we get to penalties guys, we’re in a great spot,” Yeagley said at a press conference after the match.
Yeagley’s assurance didn’t make the clock move faster, but it motivated the team to focus on every individual play.
“Not going to lie, the minutes were long,” Celentano said with a chuckle. “As a team, we just tried to take it minute by minute, manage the moments and stick it out as long as we could.”
Not only were the Hoosiers locked in towards the end, but they disrupted Penn State’s rhythm throughout the match.
Sometimes, it was clearing the ball to the sideline instead of the endline, preventing a Nittany Lion corner kick. Other times, it was emphatically verbalizing whether Celentano or a defender should touch the ball after a Penn State lob.
Whatever the situation, the goalkeeper-defense connection was in full-force when it mattered most.
“Our back line and Roman were really locked in and their communication was excellent,” Yeagley said.
The victory extends IU’s unbeaten streak in the Big Ten Tournament to 16 with its last defeat back in 2014. The selection to formally announce the NCAA Tournament bracket will be Monday at noon.
Maher will be inactive in IU’s first game of the NCAA Tournament due to the red card, but Yeagley said he is confident in his defensive depth especially when Celentano is in goal.
“Having Roman makes us all look good,” Yeagley said. “He’s pretty special.”