Photo credit - IU Athletics

Championship Monday: Indiana faces Syracuse with national title on the line

Indiana fans may take the school’s success on the soccer field for granted, but Monday evening is one of those “can’t miss” moments.

The Hoosiers have a chance to earn their ninth star when they take on Syracuse at the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary N.C.  The national championship match kicks off at 6 p.m. and will air live on ESPNU.

Whether they’ve made the journey to North Carolina, or they’ll be watching on television, head coach Todd Yeagley knows his team will have the full attention of the IU fan base Monday, and he wants to deliver for them.

“To give our fans that may not be a huge soccer lover but just love IU, we know how much this means to them, and we want to give them a lot of joy,” Yeagley said on Sunday evening as his team makes final preparations for the Orange.

The Hoosiers have advanced to the title match for the 17th time in a program history – an NCAA Tournament record. Meanwhile, overall No. 3 seed Syracuse will play in the program’s first-ever final.

With a win, Indiana would become the only program to win a national title in each of the last five decades.

“It’s hard to be this consistent in so many ways,” said Yeagley, who has been around the program since he was a newborn when his father started it 50 years ago.  “That’s what I think is the most unique about our program.”

Indiana has not conceded a goal through its four NCAA Tournament matches, a total of 360 minutes. IU is the first team since Maryland (2018) to make a championship game without conceding a goal throughout the NCAA Tournament and the seventh team all-time to achieve that feat.

Redshirt senior forward Ryan Wittenbrink has tallied a goal contribution in eight of his last nine matches played, with four goals and four assists in that span.

Standing in the way of a ninth national title is a Syracuse program that far exceeded outside expectations coming into the season.  The Orange enter Monday’s match with an 18-2-4 record and a 5-1-2 mark in ACC play. The Orange defeated Penn, No. 14 seed Cornell, Vermont and Creighton to advance to the championship match.

The win over Cornell was a taste of revenge.  Syracuse has not lost a match since October 4, a 2-1 defeat to Cornell.

“There’s a reason why they won 18 games,” Yeagley said.  “They’re very balanced, they’re good, and there’s a lot of belief within their team.  It’s going to be a great challenge.”

Syracuse’s greatest threat might be their attackers.  Senior forward Levonte Johnson (first team) and sophomore forward Nathan Opoku (third team) each earned United Soccer Coaches All-America honors. Johnson leads the Orange in goals (11) and points (28), with Opuku right behind him (10 goals, 27 points).

WATCH PARTY

Indiana is welcoming fans to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Monday evening to watch the national championship match.  The contest will air on the big screen.

The doors open at 5:30 p.m. Eastern and admission is free.


The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”