IU soccer falls to Syracuse in national title penalty shootout

It was a fast-paced highly competitive match for the full 90 minutes plus another 20 of overtime.

But Monday evening’s national title contest between Indiana and Syracuse was settled by penalty kicks.  The Orange came out on top 7-6 in the shootout to claim their first ever national title and hand the Hoosiers their third runner-up finish in the last six years.

“There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of tears on the field, because there’s a lot invested.” Indiana coach Todd Yeagley said after the match.  “These guys care so much.

“I want to thank the seniors.  To get the team back to the biggest stage is so hard to do.”

After falling behind twice early, the Hoosiers were the more aggressive squad and rallied after halftime to force the extra sessions.

Herbert Endeley mishit a first half opportunity in the box, and he couldn’t cleanly handle another pass from Sam Sarver with 11 minutes remaining in the second half.

But Endeley recovered the second time and fired the equalizer to the far post to tie match at 2-2.  That score would hold up into the overtime, and the two squads played a pair of scoreless 10-minute extra sessions.

In a wide-open first half, uncharacteristic IU defensive breakdowns in the box against a fast Syracuse attack led to two goals by the Orange before the break.

Dazzling dribbling by Syracuse’s Nathan Opoku gave him just enough space to fire a laser into the top left corner that IU goalkeeper JT Harms never had a chance to stop for the 1-0 lead.

Playing in his home state, Indiana’s Patrick McDonald squeezed in a second ball off a corner kick to equalize the match at 1-1.

Then Curt Calov put Syracuse back in front 2-1 with an assist from Opoku with 12:20 left in the first half.

“This team had not given up a goal (in the NCAA Tournament) until this game, but we knew this would be a tough night to get a shutout,” Yeagley said.  “Good performance overall defensively, but it’s tough to stop a couple All-Americans we were going against.”

Indiana had several shots in the last 11 minutes of regulation and during the two overtime sessions, but couldn’t find the back of the net.

Even the shootout went to sudden death.

Harms had six saves on the night and he stopped one shootout attempt, but he couldn’t get a hand on Amferny Sinclair’s penalty kick shot that clinched the title for Syracuse.  Harms dove in the right direction, but Sinclair’s shot went high and out of reach.

“It’s a difficult situation to be in,” Yeagley said of the dynamics of the penalty kick shootout.  “Even when you win it you feel for the other team, because it’s unique to our sport the way it finishes.”

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