Indiana Daily Student

Indiana men’s soccer to host Penn State in Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals Friday

<p>Then-freshman forward Tommy Mihalic passes the ball to a teammate on Sept. 17, 2021, at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Indiana will face Penn State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament Friday night.</p>

Then-freshman forward Tommy Mihalic passes the ball to a teammate on Sept. 17, 2021, at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Indiana will face Penn State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament Friday night.

Indiana men’s soccer has been in this spot before.

With 15 Big Ten tournament titles and eight national championships to its name, the start of the conference tournament has often felt like the beginning of a journey toward something much bigger.

At 7 p.m. Friday, Indiana will continue on its quest for a ninth College Cup victory and host Penn State in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals. The road to this point has been more circuitous than in years past, as the Hoosiers enter as the No. 4 seed after recording a pedestrian 3-1-4 record in conference play.

[Related: Indiana men’s soccer draws No. 8 Maryland 1-1 to close regular season, falls to fourth in B1G]

In a year that saw some brilliant peaks and disappointing lows, Indiana closed out its regular season with a mix of both. Despite leading No. 7 Maryland for over an hour on Sunday, an 87th-minute goal from Terrapin junior forward Stefan Copetti deflated the fans at Bill Armstrong Stadium and buried the Hoosiers’ title hopes.

However, that’s all in the past, now. Ask head coach Todd Yeagley, and he will say the team is focused on the next day and the next game.

“I thought it was important we got together and chatted about the postseason,” Yeagley said in a Wednesday press conference. “We talk about the importance of a rearview mirror. We got to look forward. If (the team) just kept looking in the mirror at that game, we don’t get better.”

Luckily for the Hoosiers, they have come to know the Nittany Lions well over the years. Yeagley said nothing Friday should surprise his squad, and the match will come down to execution.

The two sides met on Oct. 14 — also in Bloomington — and Indiana took down then-No. 25 Penn State, 4-2. The Hoosiers’ attack put together, perhaps, its best display of the season, but it was the backline that truly impressed.

The Nittany Lions’ engine runs through a three-headed monster of graduate student midfielder Seth Kuhn, junior forward Peter Mangione and senior forward Liam Butts. When they visited Indiana just a few weeks ago, however, they were mostly stifled.

“We did a great job against them. A lot of it is Kuhn. He needs to not be able to get into the game,” Yeagley said. “At the same time, we have to be aware of Mangione who does a great job kind of scheming underneath their striker. With Kuhn, Mangione and Butts up the spine, it’s a really nice group.”

Late in the season, but especially in the postseason, Yeagley said no one is, “reinventing the wheel” in terms of rotations and tactics. Although, one major change for the Hoosiers might be their goalkeeper.

Due to some rocky outings from junior JT Harms and redshirt junior Bryant Pratt throughout the season, Yeagley has remained relatively noncommittal to a starter. But after Harms’ impressive showing against an elite opposition in Maryland, it’s fair to think he passed his audition for the top option in goal.

Though he has stayed positive about both of his keepers, Yeagley has, at times, expressed his frustration with goalkeeping mistakes. While Friday’s starter has yet to be revealed, he offered an especially glowing praise of Harms.

“He had great courage in the one that he got clobbered in, which was a pretty tough foul,” Yeagley said. “He made a really, really good save in the second half. I thought live ‘that’s the one. We just need that.’ We know JT can play like that. It’s just nice to see us not put ourselves in a tough situation in goal.”

In recent memory, this matchup has held some heavy implications: the last two Big Ten Championships featured an Indiana and Penn State clash. Though the Hoosiers have won seven of the last nine overall meetings, they may still be seeking revenge for last season’s 3-0 loss in the conference finals.

Still, it’s hard to not keep the bigger picture in mind. Indiana isn’t necessarily on the outside looking in for the NCAA Tournament, but they are far from guaranteed a top-16 seed, something they have routinely been accustomed to.

Nonetheless, Yeagley is keeping his eyes on Friday’s match. After that, the results will take care of themselves.

“Both teams know each other really well,” Yeagley said. “They know our strengths, we know theirs. It’s who’s going to make great plays which will be the difference.”

The first kick is slated for 7 p.m. from Bill Armstrong Stadium. The match will be broadcast on B1G+.

Follow reporters Kamil Gut (@GutKamil) and Matt Press (@MatthewPress23) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s soccer season. 
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