All sophomore goalkeeper Roman Celentano needed was one more stop.
Leading 3-1 in penalty kicks, he focused on St. Francis Brooklyn’s Nicolas Molina as he approached the ball. Once the whistle blew, Molina began his trot and struck it bottom right, directly into the gloves of Celentano.
“When we got to penalties, we have Roman, so we’re in a good place,” head coach Todd Yeagley said.
Fifteen days after walking off IU’s conference championship victory with a save, the Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year played hero again. Sophomore Ben Yeagley hopped on Celentano’s back for a quick piggyback ride as the rest of his teammates mobbed him to celebrate.
After a 1-1 deadlock through 110 minutes, No. 3 IU beat St. Francis Brooklyn 3-1 in penalty kicks Sunday night in Wilmington, North Carolina, to advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The Hoosiers have now won their past six tournament openers.
Early on, both squads struggled to keep possession with heavy winds and perhaps nerves impairing fairly easy passes. The Terriers created the first dangerous chance in the 25th minute when junior defender Harald Sollund headed a corner cross on goal, barely tipped over the crossbar by Celentano.
“The first game, everyone’s a little anxious,” Yeagley said, “And there were moments that I think we played like that.”
After the save, IU generated more threats, including four corner kicks in eight minutes. On the fourth, the Hoosiers finally capitalized in the 36th minute after the Terrier defense failed to clear it out.
Assisted by a touch pass from senior captain A.J. Palazzolo, sophomore forward Victor Bezerra finished a beauty bottom left to give the Hoosiers a 1-0 advantage. St. Francis Brooklyn’s Ridwan Hannan deflected the ball, but not enough to stop the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year from recording his team-leading 12th goal.
The Terriers provided more pressure in the second half, including a lavish bicycle kick from junior forward El Mahdi Youssoufi that forced Celentano to lay out and make a massive save.
In the 77th minute, Youssoufi snuck behind IU’s back line, which was without freshman starter Joey Maher due to a red card in the last game, and buried the equalizer bottom right past Celentano.
“We made some silly decisions and gave them a couple simple attacks off our giveaways,” Yeagley said.
St. Francis Brooklyn was unable to convert another tally in regulation despite keeping the pressure on in the final minutes.
In overtime, the Hoosiers switched the momentum by turning into the aggressors. Sophomore forward Ryan Wittenbrink sent a cross into the box for Bezerra, who volleyed it into the hands of St. Francis Brooklyn goalkeeper Callum James. It was the best chance either side got in the final 20 minutes, so they had to settle for penalty kicks.
If there wasn’t enough drama already, both teams won their respective conference tournaments in a penalty shootout. Senior forward Thomas Warr converted the first one to get the Hoosiers on the board, then Bezerra and Wittenbrink buried theirs as well. Celentano stopped three out of four attempts, including the game-winner.
IU will face Marquette University for a spot in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday in Cary, North Carolina, with the start time still to be determined. Coincidentally, the Golden Eagles advanced by defeating Loyola Marymount University 3-1 in penalty kicks earlier today as well.
Although Yeagley pointed out numerous areas to improve before Thursday, he said he is more than satisfied with the result.
“Tonight was all about survive and advance,” Yeagley said.