Tears filled the eyes of IU players as they stood still with hands over their heads. Head coach Todd Yeagley and the coaching staff hustled to put their arms around their athletes, knowing the season’s ultimate goal was gone.
As they shuffled off the field, they walked past the smiling faces of Marshall University fans and players as they jumped up and down in a frenzy.
A rebound goal from Marshall senior forward Jamil Roberts in the 98th minute gave the Thundering Herd their first national title and doomed the Hoosiers out of their ninth. IU sophomore goalkeeper Roman Celentano stopped the first attempt from junior forward Vitor Dias, but couldn’t recover before Roberts put the ball, and the Hoosiers chances, away.
“It was a weird bang-bang goal,” senior midfielder A.J. Palazzolo said after the game.
Despite holding Marshall scoreless for all of regulation, No. 3 seed IU lost 1-0 to the Thundering Herd on Monday night in Cary, North Carolina. The Hoosiers end the 2020 season with a 12-2-2 record.
The score was 0-0 at halftime, but the up-tempo pace opened up chances for both sides early on. Sophomore forward Herbert Endeley created two shots with his pace that missed just wide left. Later in the half, sophomore defender Daniel Munie missed two headers off set pieces – one that ricocheted off the post and one wide-open that he flicked too far left.
“I felt we had an advantage on our attacking restarts,” Yeagley said.
Although IU generated opportunities in the first half, they registered no shots on goal compared to Marshall’s four.
The Thundering Herd dominated possession and tested Celentano throughout the match. He tallied seven saves, with his most impressive one coming in the 23rd minute when he dove right and just barely stuffed a strike from junior midfielder Vinicius Fernandes.
The Hoosiers’ chances came more at a premium in the second half.
In the 49th minute, MAC Hermann finalist and IU sophomore forward Victor Bezerra received a free kick from just outside the box. His direct shot carried lots of velocity, but junior goalkeeper Oliver Semmle dove right and corralled it without a rebound.
“We battled and dug in tonight and it just didn’t go our way,” Palazzolo said.
Similar to the first half, Marshall continued to control the ball without much IU pressure. It may have looked like the Hoosiers were playing on their heels, but Celentano and the defense consistently eliminated any threats.
That carried into overtime as the Thundering Herd recorded no shots before the rebounded shot that led to the eventual game-winner.
“Our gameplan, I think we played it well but just couldn’t execute our chances,” Palazzolo said.
Like all collegiate teams across the country, IU dealt with abnormality all season. The COVID-19 pandemic shifted the season from fall to spring. Furthermore, a broken tibia back in March sidelined senior captain and defender Spencer Glass for the remainder of the season.
The Hoosiers’ last blemish before tonight was a 1-0 defeat on Feb. 27th when Northwestern scored with under 3 minutes remaining. Since then, IU had maintained a 12 game unbeaten streak, a Big Ten regular season title, a Big Ten Championship crown and appeared in the program’s 21st College Cup.
“You learn how to win at this program,” Yeagley said. “You learn how to have discipline; learn how to be selfless and have an awesome time doing it.”
The 2021 season will begin in the fall, so IU will have a quick turnaround from this loss. Many of this team’s players are likely to return besides seniors Palazzolo, Glass and Thomas Warr, so another postseason run with hopes of getting the ninth star is expected.
“I’m confident we’ll be back in this position in the near future,” Yeagley said.