Hopes of making a run for a ninth championship ended in heartbreak for Indiana.
Xavier upset the No. 5-seed Hoosiers 2-1, eliminating them in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
”Tough day for us with the result,” IU head coach Todd Yeagley said. “I really felt that this team had the potential to make a really deep run. It’s tough to be in the locker room, to see their faces, to know that this path this year has come to a conclusion.”
Xavier (15-5-2) first took the lead in the 29th minute when freshman forward Matt Vasquenza’s shot from the left side of the goal toward the far post just beat IU sophomore goalkeeper Collin Webb.
Indiana (12-5-5) responded with an equalizer in the 34th minute after redshirt senior midfielder Jamie Vollmer’s cross found freshman defender Grant Lillard near the back post for the header goal.
”We’ve been a confident group all year,” Lillard said. “Even when we went down one early, the feel between the guys was that we still thought we were going to win. Getting that goal, making it 1-1 at half, we really though we were going to be able to push and get another one. It just wasn’t our day.”
In the 74th minute, Webb was given a yellow card for his challenge in the box on Xavier redshirt senior midfielder Will Walker. Walker buried the penalty kick into the back lower left corner of the net to put the Musketeers ahead 2-1 and give them the lead for good.
”That’s a tough call, because you either feel like you make a play on the ball or you come out and just kind of stay big and let him take a push that takes him to an angle that’s not a good shot opportunity,” Yeagley said of Webb’s challenge. “You’re making decisions very quickly, and that’s a hard position to be in when you’re in a breakaway situation as a goalkeeper.”
The Hoosiers weren’t without their fair share of opportunities. They finished with a 15-5 shot advantage and had more shots on goal (eight) than the Musketeers had total (5).
Ultimately, though, those opportunities ended up being missed ones.
In the eighth minute, Xavier junior defender Chris Moore was called for a handball in the box which resulted in an Indiana penalty kick. Hoosiers sophomore midfielder Tanner Thompson took the penalty kick and hit the ball off the left cross bar.
Thompson said he took the penalty kick like he usually took any other penalty kick.
”Just didn’t hit it well,” he said. “Hit it in a little too far left. I saw the goalie go right, so I knew I just hit the whole side of the left goal and just mishit it.
Nine minutes later, Indiana had another opportunity to close the gap. Thompson flicked a ball on to senior defender Patrick Doody, who centered it to junior forward Femi Hollinger-Janzen. Hollinger-Janzen’s shot from six yards out went just wide of the goal.
Those opportunities were especially crucial because of the field conditions. Intermittent rain showers throughout the match made it difficult for both teams as puddles formed in different parts of the pitch.
”It changed the way we played in the second half,” Thompson said. “We had to go long more. The ball was sticking in the water. I thought we did well going long and had some creative chances, it just didn’t fall for us.”
The quest for the ninth championship ended for IU’s seniors, who were a part of the Hoosier team that won the program its eighth championship. But for players like Thompson and Lillard, there’s still next year.
For now, though, they’ll have to wait.
”We just ran out of time,” Yeagley said. “This team had clearly the better opportunities on goal and was continually pressing.
”It just wasn’t meant to be today.”