Unexpected faces dot College Cup
Georgetown making first appearance; Indiana a surprise
No top seed will compete this weekend at the Men’s Division I Soccer Championship at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala.
However, there is a No. 16 seed – and also a No. 12 seed. And one of them will advance to play for the national championship on Sunday
No. 16 seed Indiana squares off with No. 12 seed Creighton in the second of Friday’s national semfinals (7:30 p.m. ET). Third-seeded Georgetown and second-seeded Maryland will clash in the first semifinal (5 p.m. ET).
Indiana advanced to its 18th College Cup by defeating No. 9 seed and defending national champion North Carolina 1-0 on Saturday in the national quarterfinals. Eriq Zavaleta scored the game-winning goal for the Hoosiers in the 57th minute.
As if defeating the defending national champion wasn’t impressive enough, it could be argued that the real shocker came in the quarterfinals, when the Hoosiers took out top-seeded Notre Dame in double overtime 2-1. Zalveta was key there, as well, heading in the winning score in the second minute of the second overtime period.
“I am so proud of this team,” Zalveta said. “This is the best I have seen this team play in a long time.”
While Zalveta provides the sizzle for the Hoosiers, it could be said that Nikita Kotlov provides the steak. Kotlov, a junior from Indianapolis, has seven goals and two assists in seven career NCAA tournament games. Four of those goals have come this season, two away from the school record for NCAA tournament play, held by Aleksey Korol in 1999.
All of that said, it’s not like Indiana hasn’t been here before. The Hoosiers are about to play their 82nd NCAA tournament game on Friday night. Still, considering where this team was expected to be and where they are, head coach Todd Yeagley has plenty to smil about.
"This group, I couldn't be more happy for them," Yeagley said. "I am proud of our players and how they have stayed the course. There is a lot of expectation with this program and these players are playing the best when the pressure is greatest.”
Where Indiana has a storied soccer history, Creighton is building one. The Bluejay make their second consecutive appearance in the College Cup and will enter Regions Park riding a 14-game winning streak. They are also clearly not afraid of teams with intimidating records. Their 1-0 victory against UConn on Sunday in the qaurterfinals ended a 38-match home winning streak.
Creighton head coach Elmar Bolowich will make his fifth consecutive College Cup appearance after taking Creighton last season and North Carolina the previous three years.
“I’m very proud of our performance,” Bolowich said. “We have faced adversity all season long and had to adjust to other teams and to other circumstances and for some reason we just hang in there and make our plays and there’s something to be said about that.”
If anyone is to beat the Jays, they’ll have to get past two stellar freshmen. Goalkeeper Jeff Gal, who is 12-0-1 on the season with 12 saves in his past two games. Meanwhile, midfielder Timo Pitter from Oberschwarzach, Germany leads a balanced team attack with 10 goals.
In the first national semifinal, Georgetown makes its first appearance in the College Cup after defeating San Diego on Saturday.
"This feeling is just awesome," Georgetown Head Coach Brian Wiese said. "This postseason has been really interesting for this team since we were expected the get there, being the three seed, but we've never done it before. How you manage that dual mentality is really interesting and I'm so proud of them."
As with Creighton, the Hoyas have a freshman leading their offensive attack. Brandon Allen, a native of Old Bridge N.J. has 15 goals and a total of 32 points in 24 games. He leads the nation with 10 game-winners.’
They’ll need it all against Maryland, which has won all 28 meetings it has had with Georgetown, the most recent being in 2009 when the Terps won on the road 2-1.
Georgetown will have to stop Maryland nation-leading offensive threat if the Hoyas are to advance. The Terps lead the nation with a 2.61 goals-per-match average. Junior Patrick Mullins leads the Terps with 16 goals including seven game-winners and is the reigning ACC Offensive Player of the Year.
In all, 16 players have scored goals this season for Maryland, a fact head coach Sasho Cirovski is pleased about/
“The depth we have with our team, and the selflessness and humility that this team has shown, along with the skill and their single-mindedness to make sure we get back to the College Cup has been a source of inspiration and a great joy for me as a coach this year,” Cirovski said.
Still, that doesn’t mean he’s completely satisfied – yet.
“We're not satisfied with just getting to the College Cup,” he said. “The preparations already started, and we're going to be ready to roll on Friday."