Indiana Daily Student

Indiana men’s soccer defeats No. 6 Maryland in nail-biting 2-1 upset, advances to B1G finals

<p>Then-freshman forward Samuel Sarver celebrates the win against Northwestern in the semifinals of the Big Ten Men’s Soccer Tournament on Nov. 10, 2021, at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Indiana won against the University of Maryland 2-1 during the Big Ten Tournament on Nov. 9.</p>

Then-freshman forward Samuel Sarver celebrates the win against Northwestern in the semifinals of the Big Ten Men’s Soccer Tournament on Nov. 10, 2021, at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Indiana won against the University of Maryland 2-1 during the Big Ten Tournament on Nov. 9.

Remnants of purple smoke, which filled the night sky after freshman forward Colin Griffith pulled No. 6 Maryland within one, loomed eerily over Indiana men’s soccer’s penalty area. The Hoosiers — fighting to ward off the unremitting attacking onslaught from the Terrapins — maintained composure through a brief stadium power outage and jeers from the raucous home crowd.

Just 10 days ago, Maryland junior forward Stefan Copetti’s equalizing goal sealed his team’s regular season title against the Hoosiers in Bloomington. After the final buzzer signaled the conclusion of a nail-biting semifinal match in College Park, Maryland, on Wednesday night, though, it was head coach Todd Yeagley’s squad who gathered on the pitch in jubilation.

With the victory, Indiana advanced to its sixth consecutive Big Ten Tournament final. While the road to this point was more precarious than in previous seasons, Yeagley never had any doubts in his mind about what his team was capable of.

“There were some goal line scrambles, some posts,” Yeagley said after the match. “We bent a few times, but we were able to make second efforts (and) block shots. It wasn’t our cleanest performance with our passing. I thought we could have been a little sharper in moments, but we still created enough good chances to win the game.”

In the regular season finale on Oct. 30, before being forced onto its heels in the final 15 minutes, Indiana largely shut down the Terrapins. On Wednesday night, the script read quite similarly.

Aside from a couple long-range blasts from Copetti at the outset of the match, Maryland struggled to break into the Hoosiers’ attacking third and create danger. The same was true for the visitors, at least early on.

But in the 30th minute, Indiana embarked on a rather threatening attack. Freshman forward Luka Bezerra played the ball onto the left wing for redshirt senior forward Ryan Wittenbrink, who immediately dashed toward the box.

Wittenbrink cut to his left and whipped a powerful cross that fell to the boot of sophomore Sam Sarver, who arrived just in time to tap it in and give the Hoosiers the advantage. Sarver, who creates so much havoc due to his speed and tenacity, hadn’t found the back of the net since Sept. 9 against the University of Akron.

“We talked about that today as a staff, how great it would be to get Sam (Sarver) a goal,” Yeagley said. “That wasn’t easy. That (cross) came across hot. I’m really happy for Sam because he’s playing really well.”

Yeagley of course recalls entering halftime with a one goal advantage against Maryland in the last meeting. This time around, however, the Hoosiers could take solace in a two-goal lead at the break.

About five minutes after Sarver opened the scoring, Indiana came storming right back. After a chaotic scrum seemingly came to an end in Maryland’s box, freshman midfielder Jack Wagoner fired a dangerous ball right back into the penalty area from about 20 yards out.

It dribbled for a moment, but not too long before junior defender Joey Maher blasted a shot past Terrapin senior goalkeeper Niklas Neumann, who could only watch the ball slam the upper netting.

“We felt really good going into halftime,” Yeagley said. “That second goal was obviously massive.”

Nonetheless, Maryland wouldn’t go away without a fight. In the 61st minute, a curling strike into the bottom corner from Terrapin freshman forward Colin Griffith made things interesting.

“The two-(zero) lead is an interesting one because momentum could quickly shift,” Yeagley said. “They got their goal at a pretty opportune time.”

Yet, while Copetti helped the Terrapins miraculously equalize in the waning minutes of the regular season finale, Indiana simply refused to accept that same fate on Wednesday night. It took some help from the crossbar hanging above junior goalkeeper JT Harms, but the Hoosiers did just enough to weather the storm.

Perhaps most importantly, Indiana has set itself up for a very promising shot at a top 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. But first, they will travel to Piscataway, New Jersey, to take on Rutgers Sunday at 12 p.m. in the Big Ten Tournament finals.

“We want their (the team’s) focus on the title,” Yeagley said. “If we win on Sunday, this is going to be very rewarding.”

Follow reporters Kamil Gut (@GutKamil) and Matt Press (@MattPress23) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s soccer season.

Like what you're reading?

Get more award-winning content delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Recap.

Signup today!
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

Powered by Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2022 Indiana Daily Student