Soccer Doing It The Hard Way This Time To Get To The Verge Of Yet Another College Cup
Hoosiers Knock Off Virginia To Advance To The Elite Eight Round Which IU's Current Coach Has Never Lost
IU’s Sam Sarver Celebrates Last Year’s Elite Eight Victory In Greensboro, North Carolina. The Hoosiers Will Be Back In The Round Of Eight This Year, But Much Closer To Home In South Bend.
The Assembly Call is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Advancing to the Elite Eight is nothing unusual for IU. After all, this will be the fifth time in seven seasons the Hoosiers have been this far in the NCAA Tournament and their 29th overall since the program obtained varsity status.
However, the path to get here and potentially advance to the College Cup has been far more treacherous than in past seasons. While the Hoosiers advanced to the Final Four last season and three times recently before that, they have always done it via a relatively easy path in their bracket.
In 2017 and 2018, IU was the number two seed nationally and got to host the first three rounds with only a tough game in the Elite Eight. In 2020, it was a neutral site tournament for everyone while was COVID still a threat, rather than the higher seed hosting. This eliminated the normal advantages of being seeded. Last season was a lot of luck, as the Hoosiers made it to the College Cup with multiple upsets and avoided elite Virginia and Stanford squads.
This time the bracket has held to form and Indiana has had to move on with the toughest games possible and no national seed. As a result, IU has had to knock off national powers Wake Forest and the same Cavilers to get this far.
On Sunday, the 1-0 win over UVA was courtesy of an early goal from Collins Oduro. From there, the defense held strong and the back line did a marvelous job of closing out the game without many dangerous chances given up.
Normally, these tough games on the road in the round of 16 have not been the Hoosiers’ friend. Whether it be 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015, or 2021, the Cream and Crimson’s season has generally ended here in the past. Even hosting the game has not always guaranteed better results as Indiana fell at home during this round in 2006, 2016, and 2019.
Once this challenge has been cleared, the round of eight has been a time the team has been nearly invincible. Since legendary coach Jerry Yeagley retired in 2003, the Hoosiers are 6-1 with the College Cup on the line with the only loss coming in 2008 when the Hoosiers gave up a 2-0 lead in the final 10 minutes of a match against Saint Johns.
Winning multiple tough road games in the tournament has happened only once in the last two decades before now though. That was in 2012 when the team beat Notre Dame (next weekend’s opponent) and North Carolina (potential opposition in College Cup if the Hoosiers beat the Irish) on the way to the program’s last national title.
Now Indiana will have to win a third challenging road contest to advance to the Final Four which is not something they have done since 2000 when knocking off San Jose State, Washington, and UNC to get to the College Cup.
However, while the games may not be in Bloomington, unlike in 2000 and 2012, they will not be far away. Instead of traveling by plane and going multiple states away like they did those seasons, the remaining matches will be within Hoosier Nation should IU keep advancing.
Next weekend’s showdown with the Fighting Irish will be at 5 pm Saturday (ESPN+) in the Hoosiers’ home state, in South Bend. Whoever, advances will go just over the state line to Louisville to compete for a National Championship. While the Hoosiers have played for all the marbles a half-dozen times in the last 20 years, they have not done it close to home since the legendary Yeagley was sent out on top in Columbus, Ohio in 2003.
Now his son and current coach Todd Yeagley will try to win another one in a place where almost all Indiana fans can easily be in attendance. If accomplished, the program will finally get its ninth star after an 11-year wait.