When it mattered most, Indiana men’s soccer delivered. The Hoosiers won 4-1 – their highest scoring margin in the season – over Rutgers. With Penn State’s 1-1 draw with Wisconsin, the Hoosiers earned a share of the Big Ten regular season title with the Nittany Lions.
In a season marked by the lack of accuracy up front, the Hoosiers finished the game with 15 shots on goal in 19 attempts — their highest accuracy percentage of the season.
“In the first three [Big Ten] matches, we played well but things just didn’t fall our way,” senior defender Joey Maher said after the game. “We had to keep the belief, and we did.”
As usual, Indiana dominated possession and didn’t let Rutgers past the midfield line. On top of that, the Hoosiers were lethal in the final third, resulting in an easy win over the Scarlet Knights.
The Hoosiers scored early in the game, which helped to calm the nerves in a must-win game. Just seven minutes into the game, chaos ensued inside Rutgers’ 6-yard box and, after a few tries and clears right on the line, senior defender Hugo Bacharach finally tapped the ball into the goal to open the scoring.
“I wish I could [explain what happened], but I don’t know” Bacharach said about his goal. “When I saw the ball going in, I was the happiest guy in the world.”
Freshman forward Collins Oduro doubled Indiana’s lead fifteen minutes later. Junior forward Sam Sarver left the defender on the floor and centered the ball for senior forward Maouloune Goumballe to shoot. Rutgers sophomore goalkeeper Ciaran Dalton saved it but couldn’t hold on to the ball and Oduro was there to tap in the rebound.
The Hoosiers finished the first half with 100% accuracy in shots, going six-for-six.
“I told the guys, ‘At this moment, you’re the champions,’” Yeagley said about his halftime speech. “I usually don’t do that.”
Indiana picked up where it left off in the second half. Seven minutes into the final half, Bacharach headed a ball that was deflected by the defense just right of the goal.
Junior midfielder Patrick McDonald had another high-quality chance five minutes later. With his back turned to the goal, senior forward Karsen Henderlong set McDonald on the left and he fired one low on the right, but Dalton made a kicking save.
With seven minutes left in the game, McDonald had another chance and didn’t waste it. After a bad clear by the Scarlet Knights defense, McDonald found himself all alone on the top of the box. He shot it on the same corner, this time unreachable for Dalton, to put the Hoosiers ahead 3-1.
The game got a little chippy as nerves and emotions boiled over, resulting in multiple stoppages and even confrontation between Indiana junior forward Tommy Mihalic and Rutgers sophomore forward Ian Abbey, who had to be separated by the referee.
Indiana finished the game with 16 fouls while Rutgers had nine.
“Emotions were high,” Maher said. “We were just trying to help each other if we were getting into a little bit of chippiness but I think we managed it well.”
In the dying seconds, Bacharach found Sarver on the run on the counter attack to increase the Hoosiers’ lead to 4-1. Sarver infiltrated the box all alone and scored one-on-one against Dalton to close out the game.
“Four goals that represent our biggest strengths and areas we needed to get better,” Yeagley said.
Indiana did its homework and had help from Northwestern – who lost 3-0 to Michigan – to reach the top of the standings, tying Penn State with 14 points and sharing the title.
“Those will always be a part of the stadium and that will be displayed over in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall,” Yeagley said. “Every title, no matter how they come, they are all pretty nice.”
With the win over Penn State on Oct. 7, the Hoosiers hold the tiebreaker and get the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, playing eight-seed Wisconsin in the first round.