Men's Soccer Gets Past First Round Of NCAA Tournament But Now The Real Challenge Awaits
Hoosiers Head To Wake Forest On Sunday As They Chase College Cup Berth Down The Road
The Hoosiers Celebrated A Big Ten Championship On Sunday But Now Face A Much Tougher Task Going Forward After Victory Tonight Over Lipscomb
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Bloomington - Now the real challenge begins.
After disposing of an overmatched Lipscomb squad on Thursday to advance in the NCAA Tournament, things are about to get a lot tougher. The Bison came in with a high-powered offense and struggling defense while competing in a lesser Atlantic Sun Conference.
IU took advantage of the shaky back line in the first half when freshman Collins Oduro fired a shot from the top of the box that snuck under the Lipscomb goalie despite a chance for the save. In the second half, the red-hot senior Maouloune Goumballe somehow saved a ball from going over the line for a goal kick and snuck it into the net. While the Bison pulled one back in the closing minutes it was to-little-to-late.
The victory was the first over an NCAA Tournament squad this season. The Hoosiers faced just two teams in the regular season who made the field of 48 (Notre Dame and Kentucky) and tied them both. Due to a slow start and the weakness of their schedule in a very down Big Ten, Indiana was forced to compete tonight rather than get a bye to Sunday with a national seed as they had every year for the last decade.
As a result, Thursday was the easiest of what will be a grueling road to the College Cup which will take place in nearby Louisville. In the past, as a seeded team, IU always started at home and played farther away as the competition went on with soccer’s Final Four often in the south or west.
This year though will be exactly the opposite if the Hoosiers keep winning. This weekend’s trip to Wake Forest for the round of 32 will almost certainly be the farthest the team would have to travel with each round getting progressively closer to Bloomington barring any upsets. This is because the likely route after would be Charlottesville, South Bend, and then the aforementioned Louisville. While there will be no more games on the IU campus barring a massive upset, the final two sites are within driving distance of Hoosier Nation and plenty of Indiana fans live near both of the latter two cities mentioned.
IU coach Todd Yeagley said the team has spoken about the Final Four being down the road but nothing besides that in terms of locations.
“We’ve talked about the College Cup in Louisville,” Yeagley said. “The guys are really not trying to predict what’s going to happen in our bracket though. All the places we could go to are good venues.”
First though, heading on the road on Sunday (5 pm ESPN+) will be a different experience for the Hoosiers. It will be just the third time (1992, 2000) the round of 32 has not been played in Bloomington since the Hoosiers began their current 37 year streak of making the NCAA Tournament.
Yeagley said not having the bye could have an advantage in some ways.
“I always felt a little uneasy,” he said. “That team coming out of the Thursday game has had a tournament win now and there is momentum. I always felt like that sometimes the hardest game is your first game no matter who the opponent is and our first game now is over.”
While the path is grueling beginning with the Demon Deacons on Sunday, there is precedent for getting to the College Cup as an unseeded squad. Last year Pittsburgh and Creighton played on the first Thursday of competition and still advanced to the Final Four. Now the Cream and Crimson will look to be the latest team to pull off this feat.
Either way though, Indiana rescued a season that looked like it was headed for disaster in September with a conference championship. Now they will look to defy the odds and advance to their fifth College Cup in the last seven years.
The only difference this time would be many of their fans could join them there with it taking place in a location close to Bloomington which is a rarity.