Contrasting styles make for intriguing College Cup championship match
HOOVER, Ala. -- In relationships, it's long been said that opposites attract. Often, the same can be said for sports. Take, for example Sunday's College Cup final in which Georgetown takes on Indiana.
While the Hoosiers are a 16-seed in this year's tournament-- the first to make the final in the history of the College Cup -- its program has a history that rivals the richest in all of college sports. In 32 seasons, Indiana has won seven national titles (the last in 2004) and has appeared in 18 College Cups. On Sunday, the Hoosiers make their 14th appearance in the national final, the most of anyone.
Of everyone on the Indiana roster, it's hard to imagine those facts meaning more to anyone than senior defender Caleb Konstanski, who grew up in Bloomington.
"I've watched teams bring back national titles, and coming here as a freshman, the goal is to bring the team back," Konstanski said. "It's a long process, and it had ups and downs, but this is such an unbelievable feeling, I don't even know what to say."
For head coach Todd Yeagley, the chance to play for a national title has even a bit more meaning. His father Jerry started the Indiana soccer program with almost literally a shoestring budget in 1973. His teams made 28 NCAA tournament appearances, 16 College Cup trips, and 12 appearances in the national final.
Now, it’s Todd’s turn to coach for the title.
“This is obviously a really exciting moment, not only for these players here, our seniors, but for all the IU soccer family and alumni. This is a fantastic feeling to be back with an opportunity to win a national championship.”
Much like his dad, Todd has built his program on stifling defense, which was on display for all to see in Friday’s national semifinal. The Hoosiers kept Creighton off-balance and frustrated throughout the evening, grinding out a 1-0 victory.
Georgetown can likely expect the same gameplan from Indiana on Sunday.
“There’s no doubt that strong team defense is the formula for having successful runs and winning championships and it’s been the backbone of our program,” Todd Yeagley said. “There’s a fight and a belief in this team that’s special, and they’re really united, playing for each other.
“I’m just really proud of these players and that we get to play on Sunday. We know it's going to be a tough final, like every final is.”
They’ll face a Georgetown team that reached its very first national final after winning one of the wildest games in the history of the College Cup, a 4-4 offensive spectacular that was won by the Hoyas 4-3 in PKs. The eight goals tied for the second-most in College Cup history. It also marked the first time a team has scored four goals in a semifinal game since 2006.
That flashy performance – punctuated by a hat trick from junior Steve Neumann – would seem to make them the offensive “ying” to Indiana’s defensive “yang.” A look at the stats may tell a bit of a different story. Yes, the Hoyas have scored more goals this season than Indiana – 43 for the Hoyas and 40 for the Hoosiers. Georgetown has taken nearly 100 shots more than Indiana during the course of the season. But the goals-against average is reasonably close -- .91 for Georgetown to .75 for Indiana.
Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese says Friday’s performance, while good, is history now. Now, he says, the Hoyas have to play the type of soccer that has gotten them to this point.
“The challenge for us is forgetting about playing, probably one of the most exciting college soccer games that you can be a part of and shifting gears into total preparation for Indiana,” Wiese said. “We have to be able to put that performance behind us and forget about it and shift gears for what should be a great game.
"We only seem to be able to score as many goals as we need to," Wiese added. "It's never, 'we'll put in four and win 4-0,' it's 'we'll put in four because the other team put in four now we have to put in four."
While Indiana has thoughts of history and legacy in their minds, the Hoyas seem to be fully enjoying the moment. They take pride in calling themselves “the funniest team in college hockey,” according to senior midfielder Andy Reimer and they say the goal they had at the beginning of the season – to reach the Big East semifinals in Philadelphia – has already been reached.
“I think as far as [Sunday], the attitude is that we’re just looking at this as another game we’re gonna win,” senior defender Tommy Muller said. “We’ve won 19 games this season and [Sunday's] no different. It’s another game. It’s our biggest game, but it’s a game where we’re gonna walk in and do everything we can possibly do to win it.
“I think maybe nobody else expected our team to be here, but I think we did.”