For the 21st time in program history, No. 3 IU men’s soccer is preparing to kick off in the College Cup.
Standing in their way of its second championship game in four years is the No. 2 University of Pittsburgh.
Friday will be the second time in two seasons IU and Pitt have faced each other. In 2019, the Hoosiers beat the Panthers 3-2 in overtime Aug. 30 to start the season.
In a Zoom conference Tuesday, head coach Todd Yeagley said that game will give IU a good sense of the style of play it will face Friday. Eight of the 15 players from last season are on the roster this year and could see playing time Friday, including sophomore forward Herbert Endeley, who scored the game winner as a then-freshman.
Junior defender Nyk Sessock will also see time on the back line for the Hoosiers. Sessock, who transferred from Pitt prior to this season, started against IU in 2019.
“For us, with Nyk, it’s just to enjoy where you are now,” Yeagley said. “Obviously he has some insight on some of their players, which of course we would be talking to him about.”
Yeagley added that he doesn't want Sessock to overthink the opponent but believes that he will be fine once the whistle blows and adrenaline takes over.
Even though the two teams didn’t play this year, Yeagley said he feels like the team has faced teams with similar styles to Pitt that will help prepare IU.
“I thought Michigan this year has a very close resemblance to what we’ll face on Friday,” Yeagley said.
The first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament are typically held at the home stadium of the highest seed in the region, but with COVID-19 protocols in place this year, the entire tournament has taken place in Cary, North Carolina.
For IU, that means they didn’t get to host any tournament games, but they also didn’t have to travel before the College Cup.
“Usually you're heading off to a College Cup and there’s so much going on with logistics with travel,” Yeagley said. “It’s really nice to wake up and already be where you are and know that we’re just going to be changing fields.”
IU will be changing fields from the side fields at the WakeMed Soccer Park to Sahlen’s Stadium in the complex.
IU has also been able to adjust to the weather in North Carolina after playing in colder Indiana temperatures all season.
“They’re already here,” Yeagley said. “They’ve already kinda felt some of that excitement of the College Cup even though it technically wasn’t until now. I think that helps us. I think it helps all the teams, quite honestly,”
Yeagley said that since finals are over, along with the team not needing to travel, has opened up more time for training and allowing the players to have fun this week.
“It’s been really nice just to have the team in our little mini bubble,” Yeagley said. “They’ve spent a lot of time together, but individually together in apartments. To have the whole team together, bantering, playing cards, having great laughs, playing songs I’ve never heard — I’m learning a lot of new songs — it’s just been really fun.”