Indiana men’s soccer defeats Seton Hall 2-0 to advance to its 21st College Cup

When the skies darkened and lightning and rain came to attack and drench WakeMed Field in Cary, N.C., Indiana and Seton Hall had to retreat to their respective buses to wait it out without a locker room close enough to use and were stuck there for close to 40 minutes. The NCAA men’s soccer tournament quarterfinal was scoreless at the time with 3:12 to go in the first half.

“There was no place to go,” Indiana coach Todd Yeagley said. “… That goes down as a first. I’ve been on buses waiting for things, maybe at halftime, but not for a delay to go to the Final Four.”

But of course, this is 2021. The world is on the back end of a pandemic and because of it, this Indiana team has already been through a lot of firsts that it hopes never happen again. The simple fact that the Hoosiers were playing an NCAA Tournament quarterfinal game in May as opposed to November and in the same city as the College Cup spoke to the amount of adjusting it had already had to endure.

“We reminded them, ‘This is strange, but look at the whole year,'” Yeagley said. “… Yeah, we’ve never had any of the other stuff we’ve dealt with. It’s been one new challenge after another. We had adversity a lot in the fall in different things. We had adversity this year with some different conditions and where we were playing. We just went to that. We went to the strength of them solving what they’ve been dealing with.”

Just over 90 seconds after play returned, the Hoosiers scored to take the lead, and they added another goal in the second half while goalkeeper Roman Celentano pitched a shutout, earning a 2-0 win over Seton Hall and a berth in Indiana’s NCAA record 21st College Cup.

The No. 3 seed Hoosiers (11-1-2) advance to play No. 2 seed Pittsburgh at 8:30 p.m. Friday in a national semifinal game that will be shown on ESPNU. It’s the Hoosiers’ third College Cup in four years, and they are two wins away from their ninth NCAA title.

“The number obviously is pretty incredible when you look at it, the 21st,” Yeagley said. “Yet, this one is theirs, and it’s uniquely theirs and I’m really proud of them. I said they’ll forever be in the facility with how we honor our Final Four teams. They did it in a really gritty way.”

With a drenched field that made it difficult to accomplish anything in the midfield, getting ahead quickly after the re-start was critical and the Hoosiers did so thanks to a brilliant goal by redshirt sophomore forward Ryan Wittenbrink. He crossed up a pair of Seton Hall defenders and tucked a shot just inside the right post to get the Hoosiers on the board with 1:42 to go in the first half.

“He’s scored some monster goals for us,” Yeagley said of Wittenbrink. “… He clearly had a great technical finish. We’ve helped him with that, but Ryan had that coming in. We had to refine his ability to create those moments. His defending, his attacking thoughts, a lot of little things that we’ve helped him with.

Senior Thomas Warr scored the second goal in the second half, 57 minutes and 45 seconds into the game, finishing a cross from sophomore Maouloune Goumballe.

From there, Indiana’s defense took control. Seton Hall fired 14 shots and put six of them on goal, but Celentano saved all six for his eighth shutout of the season.

“We asked him to be more aggressive tonight,” Yeagley said of Celentano. “… We didn’t want to play short balls out of the back with the water. We were defending more than we would have liked to, but again, it required them to put more balls in the box Roman just took pressure off. I told him after the game, ‘That’s a really difficult game if we didn’t have your skill set.’ His athletic ability, his timing, his courage, the technique on a couple of punches that he made in traffic was great. He just didn’t allow them to get a good look.”

The Hoosiers are now just two games away from their first national title since 2012, and Yeagley said he wanted them to keep in mind how close they are and how important it is to take care of the details that will be required for them to claim the crown for the ninth time. However, he also wanted them to take a moment to appreciate what it meant to be the 21st Indiana team to be one of the last four teams standing in an NCAA Tournament.

“We have to take a moment and enjoy and celebrate what many feel as though Indiana soccer just does,” Yeagley said. “It’s hard to get to these games. It’s hard. I want them to feel that and understand that. … I want them to understand that they earned this College Cup, the 21st. It’s theirs.”

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