HOOVER, Ala. — To look at Luis Soffner, with his full beard and steely eyes, you may think he was a UFC fighter instead of a soccer goalie. To see him on the field, particularly in Sunday’s national championship game, you may think he’s both.
Soffner, a fifth-year senior for the Hoosiers, made a few diving saves throughout the battle with Georgetown to preserve a national championship that had eluded him for nearly his entire collegiate career.
“I’m just so excited,” Soffner said, nearly coming out of his seat. “We’ve come close the previous three years, but this year, especially to go out like this, to end my career at Indiana here on top is the best feeling ever.”
|2012 MEN’S COLLEGE CUP|
Championship: Indiana 1, G’town 0
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Semis: G’town 4, Maryland 4 Final/PK
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Semis: Indiana 1, Creighton 0
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The jubiliation did not come without a battle on Sunday. The stat sheet may only show that Soffner made two saves, but the two diving stops Soffner made in the first half were far from his only action. A last-minute shot from senior defender Tommy Mueller hit the post, nearly dashing everything for the Hoosiers.
“The guys in front of me have done great to keep the ball away from me, especially in the last few games,” Soffner said. “In the second half, the ball didn’t come into the box often, but when it hit the crossbar, I was so happy.
“Sometimes it takes a little luck, and we deserved it at that moment.”
Indiana did not allow a goal in its last three games of the season. In Friday’s national semifinal, the Hoosiers defeated Creighton 1-0, a game in which Soffner did not have to make a single save. In the national quarterfinals, Soffner’s bunch again won 1-0, with Soffner making three saves.
Five saves in three games was enough to earn Soffner defensive MOP honors, a feat that he says comes because of the team in front of him.
“I saw just pure fight for our team,” Soffner said. “We always said that defense wins championships, and even when we’re not having the best offensive game, our defense would come in, and every guy on the field came together and fought. We didn’t let the ball into the net, and that was our mentality.
“We knew that we’d get a goal, as long as the defense held tough. Georgetown put good pressure on us [Sunday], but from front to back, we had good team defense, and it paid off.”
Soffner has played every minute of this, his senior season, a total of more than 2,000 minutes. Sitting in front of the media Sunday, Soffner told anyone who would listen that each minute of the fight was worth it.
“I haven’t stopped smiling since the Xavier game [a 4-1 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Nov. 18]. We’ve been on a roll. I’m proud of our whole team for just hanging in there and keeping the fight going.”