On a drenched turf following an hour-long weather delay, IU sophomore forward Ryan Wittenbrink and the No. 3 seed Hoosiers struck first against No. 6 seed Seton Hall University.
In a run that mimicked his double-overtime golden goal against then No. 11 Michigan, Wittenbrink fired a shot that ricocheted off a Seton Hall defender, curled past senior goalie Andreas Nota’s hand and into the net. Wittenbrink’s tally in the 44th minute was his fifth of the season – second most on the team.
Senior forward Thomas Warr was next. In the 58th minute, Warr tapped in a well-placed center from sophomore forward Maouloune Goumballe to extend IU’s advantage to 2-0.
After fighting off a couple late Seton Hall chances, No. 3 seed IU beat No. 6 seed Seton Hall 2-0 Monday night in Cary, North Carolina, to advance to its NCAA-leading 21st College Cup. It is the Hoosiers first time back in the Final Four since 2018 when they lost to future champion Maryland in the semifinals.
“It’s pretty incredible when you look at it through the history,” head coach Todd Yeagley said after the game. “Yet this one is theirs and it’s uniquely theirs.”
Even with a 2-0 lead, the final minutes didn’t come easy.
In the 71st minute, sophomore goalkeeper Roman Celentano dove and deflected junior midfielder Paavo Riihjarvi's ground strike just enough for the save. Although it was sent from far behind the box, it was the closest the Pirates were to scoring yet.
Six minutes later, the Pirates threatened again. Sophomore forward Andrea Borg flicked a header past Celentano and off the left post, but IU’s defense cleared it before the rebound could be finished.
Celentano now has nine shutouts on the season, which is tied for most in the country. The Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year faced 14 shots and denied all six shots on goal.
“I told him after the game, ‘That’s a really difficult game if we don’t have your skillset,’” Yeagley said.
In the 42nd minute, both sides were sent to their busses once lightning was detected nearby. It downpoured in Cary for 20 minutes, creating an extremely damp pitch.
While anxiously awaiting to return to the field, Yeagley reminded his players of what they’ve been through. Whether it was daily COVID-19 tests, switching the season to the spring or even uncertainty of where early-season games would be played due to weather, he reminded them of their ability to adapt.
“Yeah we’ve never had this, but we’ve never had all the other stuff we dealt with,” Yeagley said.
Seton Hall led 5-1 in shots prior to the weather delay, but neither team could create strong opportunities. Most of the Pirates’ attempts were deep non-threats, while Wittenbrink’s ricocheted dribbler, handled easily by senior goalkeeper Andreas Nota, was IU’s lone shot.
Although Yeagley wanted his team to strike when the opportunity was right, he was content leaning on its steady defense to possess the ball to finish the game.
“We weren’t going to take risks, certainly with the lead in the second half,” Yeagley said.
IU will face the No. 2 seed University of Pittsburgh at 8:30 p.m. on Friday in Cary, North Carolina. The Panthers shut out the University of Washington 3-0 Monday afternoon to advance to their first final four.
Two wins away from capturing the program’s ninth College Cup championship, Yeagley said his team rightfully celebrated the College Cup berth but is still hunting for the ultimate goal.
“The crown jewel is still out there,” Yeagley said. “It’s just a lot closer for us.”