After one half of No. 3 IU men’s soccer’s game against Marquette University on Thursday, the Hoosiers were down 1-0.
But in the NCAA Tournament, the score after 90 minutes is all that matters.
“The message of the day was really how we responded to the first half,” head coach Todd Yeagley said in a post game Zoom conference.
The Hoosiers responded well, rallying to a come from behind, 2-1 victory in the third round of the tournament.
For the majority of the first half, neither team extended itself into the offensive zone. Then in the 44th minute, IU pushed forward after senior midfielder AJ Palazzolo created a takeaway. But when Palazzolo fell, Marquette took the ball back and scored on the counterattack.
“It was a tough goal to give up near half,” Yeagley said. “Obviously it was a beautiful strike by the kid from Marquette.”
Up until that point the game had been quiet. The two teams had eight shots combined, but an early shot from Marquette was the only one on goal.
IU’s offense struggled to get going against Marquette’s defense. Crosses were not finding players in the box, and shots were missing the target. Going into Thursday’s game, Marquette had six shutouts in 12 games played.
“We weren’t sharp enough with our final pass,” Yeagley said. “I think we could’ve had a few more really good chances if our final passes were a little cleaner.”
Then in the 71st minute, sophomore forward Herbert Endeley broke through for IU after sophomore striker Victor Bezerra set him up with a feed, slipping the ball by the Marquette goalkeeper and tying the game at 1-1.
“[Bezerra] made that special pass and Herb, we’ve been working so hard on that functional finish,” Yeagley said. “He’s so dangerous getting it behind and that’s just a pass to goal. He’s been working really hard at it.”
Endeley’s goal was IU’s first shot on goal in the game. The shot snapped IU out of its drought — the Hoosiers finished with 12 shots and four shots on goal.
Nine minutes after the first goal, sophomore forward Ryan Wittenbrink passed the ball to junior defender Nyk Sessock. Sessock’s shot right in front of the goal was blocked, but the ball fell to sophomore forward Maouloune Goumballe who put it in the net to give IU the lead.
“We had a little left in the tank in that first half and I think that was maybe the takeaway,” Yeagley said. “We had to empty it, and we did.”
When IU scores two goals, it typically is in good shape. Just once over sophomore goalkeeper Roman Celentano’s 27 career games has he allowed more than one goal in a game.
The game became increasingly physical as IU looked to even the score. The teams combined for 11 yellow cards, including six on IU. All but one occured in the second half.
“There were some tactical fouls that we had,” Yeagley said. “Some of those at times can be smart. A couple were, a couple maybe could’ve used better judgement.”
The Hoosiers’ victory sent them to the fourth round of the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years. IU will play at 5 p.m. Monday against the winner of No. 6 Seton Hall and Virginia Tech.