Making history: Indiana heads to NCAA record 19th College Cup

Mason Toye

Photo credit: Indiana men’s soccer

Nineteen. It’s a number that means many things. For the Indiana men’s soccer team, 19 represents the number of College Cups they have attended, an NCAA record. Now the Hoosiers are two wins away from their ninth NCAA championship. IU returns to the College Cup for the first time since winning the title in 2012. Indiana faces North Carolina in the second semifinal Friday at Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia.

When asked what it meant to reach this newest milestone, IU head soccer coach Todd Yeagley said simply, “It means a lot. There are a lot of people that this means a lot to.” Yeagley witnessed it firsthand on the sidelines watching his father Jerry coach IU, and then on the pitch as a player. Now he sees it from a different view as head coach.

“It’s so hard,” Yeagley said. “So many things have to go right. A bounce, a save, a post — any of those things can shoot you the other direction.”

It’s been a year of battles for the No. 2 seed Indiana Hoosiers. Their undefeated record (17-0-6) may seem like a flawless year. And while yes they have yet to lose a match, there have been some bumps along the road. Two draws against Maryland and Michigan opened IU’s Big Ten season. Oct. 18, Butler ended Indiana’s eight-match winning streak by handing them a 0-0 tie. Eleven days later, the Hoosiers tied Michigan State 1-1 in the last regular season match of the year, falling short of the Big Ten regular season title. IU then tied Wisconsin 0-0 in the Big Ten final. Wisconsin won the title on penalty kicks (4-2).

But the Hoosiers dusted off and returned to the drawing board. “Some of the ties have felt like losses for the players,” Yeagley said. “I’ll take undefeated any day. After the ties, you hit the reset button.”

And reset they did, each time. IU earned the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, and a bye in the first round. The club then topped Old Dominion 3-0 and New Hampshire 2-1 in tourney action. But in the quarterfinal match, an old friend — the tie — returned. After 110 minutes they were knotted up at 1-1. Penalty kicks went differently this time. IU’s goalkeeper Trey Muse made key saves as the Hoosiers prevailed 3-2.

Defense is a top priority for the Hoosiers. As a freshman, Muse leads the nation’s top defense in goals against average (.242) and shutouts (17). Muse has recorded 58 saves, while allowing just six goals.

Mason Toye leads IU’s attack with 10 of the club’s 48 goals. Cory Thomas ranks second with seven, while Andrew Gutman scored six. But don’t count any Hoosiers out when it comes to scoring. Twelve players have tallied a goal this season.

No. 3 seed North Carolina is making its sixth College Cup appearance in 10 years. The Tarheels have won two National Championships (2001, 2011). UNC currently ranks second in the nation with scoring offense, averaging 2.52 goals per game. The Tarheels (17-3-1) last dropped a 2-1 decision to Notre Dame Nov. 5. Since then they have outscored opponents 6-2 en route to the College Cup. Cam Lindley leads the offense with seven goals and three assists, followed closely by Jelani Pieters (9 goals, 7 assists) and Alan Winn (11 goals, 2 assists). Fourteen Tarheels have combined for 53 goals. Defensively, UNC has posted seven shutouts on the season, while allowing 18 goals.

“It’s a fantastic field with Stanford, Akron and North Carolina. All are very deserving to be there. This is a powerhouse College Cup,” Yeagley said. “We have a great challenge Friday. UNC is as talented as any team in the country, player for player, very dynamic, excellent attackers. It’s a team that is very confident, and should be with only three losses in the year playing against a really good schedule. We’ll have our work cut out for us on Friday. We’re excited.”

The winner of Friday’s match will face the winner of No. 5 seed Akron vs. No. 9 seed Stanford. Akron (18-3-2) most recently won the tournament in 2010. The Zips played to a 0-0 draw with No. 4 seed Louisville on Friday, topping the Cardinals 4-3 on penalty kicks. Stanford (17-2-2) returns to the College Cup for the third straight season, defending its back-to-back titles (2015, 2016). The Cardinal is the first team to win back-to-back titles since IU in 2003-04. Stanford advanced by shutting out No. 1 seed Wake Forest 2-0. Friday’s early match is set to begin at 6 p.m. ET, with the second semifinal set to begin at 8:45 p.m.

Follow Kathryn on Twitter: @Katknapp99.

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