For the five seniors that took the pitch on Friday night, the result still didn't show the effort they put into the match as Indiana (5-11-1, 1-4 Big Ten) fell to Michigan State (9-3-3, 2-2-1 Big Ten)in overtime, 3-2.
The Hoosiers had not won any of their previous five overtime matches, but this one felt different, as IU held a majority of the momentum heading into extra time.
But it was a corner kick that floated just right and allowed the Spartans the opportunity to be able to steal a victory from the home side. Ryan Thelen crossed the ball into the box, and after taking a few pinball hits between players and the crossbar, found the head of Tim Kreutz to seal the win.
Nearly 104 minutes of game time prior, Michigan State opened the scoring on the night in the fourth minute, as Kreutz was able to seek out the head of Kyle Rutz, who placed his header into the ground, causing keeper Michael Soderlund to misjudge and dive too soon and watch as the ball bounced over his hands.
The Hoosiers weren't fazed, as less than three minutes later Nikita Kotlov found himself alone just outside the 18 and fired a shot across the goal and past Spartan keeper Zach Bennett.
Michigan State would close out the half by adding another goal to its total. Dewey Lewis was able to throw the ball into the penalty box, and Kevin Cope flicked the ball across the goal as Fatai Alashe fought through the Indiana defense to head it home.
Throughout a majority of the second half, Indiana once again came to life as the Hoosiers created chance after chance. But like the matches that came before, none of their shots could find the back of the net.
With less than 10 minutes to play in regulation, A.J. Corrado took the ball down the left sideline, beat his defender, and put a low cross into the penalty area to find a waiting Andrew Oliver, who headed home the equalizer for his third goal in as many games.
"He is a confident player," coach Todd Yeagley said. "I think he is going to make something happen whenever he touches the ball. He had great composure on the finish."
Corrado also praised the sophomore.
"He is going to be an unbelievable player in the future, he is getting better every day and it's amazing to watch,'' Corrado said. "You are seeing in front of your eyes that he is coming out and you are getting glimpses of what you will see in the future."
The script seems to have been written for this team, where no matter how hard they play, no matter how good the chances they create, Indiana struggles to find the right side of the decision when they take the field.
"It's always hard when you play so well, because the performance was there," Corrado commented. "We gave up three goals that I don't think we should have given up. At the same time, I thought we put together a good performance. I don't think tonight was a step backwards. The pieces are out there, and we all still know we can put it together."
This very well may have been the final time fans will see the likes of Corrado, Kotlov, Harrison Petts, Jacob Bushue, and Matt McKain sport the cream and crimson on Jerry Yeagley Field. But while their senior year may end in disappointment, no one will forget the run they had on their way to the program's eighth national title, least of all the players themselves.
But if the players have it their way, Indiana will be making one of the most historic playoff pushes in history.
"I don't think there is a doubt in any of our minds that we can win the Big Ten tournament," co-captain Petts said. "Obviously we have to take it one game at a time, and the results haven't gone our way, but still I've have never been more confident that the past four or five games we have played some of the best soccer we have played this year."
Yeagley reflected that thought process as well.
"It's disappointing we couldn't get a result for the things we did do, but there were a lot of good things tonight,'' he said. "I told them we were going to win the tournament. I have never been more confident about it, and so I told them to enjoy their last regular season game, and we're going to be back here."
So as the lights go dark at Bill Armstrong stadium, the opportunity is there for the taking. It will only be a matter of if the team can put the pieces together to solve the puzzle at the last minute.