Just when it looked as if the Division I men's soccer version of David was about to slay Goliath, Goliath's goalkeeper saved the day.
Indiana goalie Jay Nolly made two saves during a penalty-kick shootout that gave the Hoosiers a second straight Men's College Cup title and seventh overall.
The championship game was played December 12 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
Indiana (19-4-1) had battled soccer Cinderella UC Santa Barbara, which was making only its third tournament appearance, to a 1-1 draw through 90 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime. It appeared that the Gauchos had enough momentum to stop the storied Hoosiers just short of the title threshold in their 29th appearance, but Nolly came up big in the shootout, deflecting UC Santa Barbara's last two of the five penalty kicks in the tiebreaker.
Indiana was coached this year by Mike Freitag, who took over after longtime Hoosier legend Jerry Yeagley retired after last year's championship win as the winningest coach in Division I men's soccer history.
It was the second time in a week that a College Cup had been decided on penalty kicks. Notre Dame won the women's championship December 5 in a 4-3 penalty-kick decision against UCLA after those two teams also were deadlocked, 1-1. Ironically, Notre Dame had not faced a penalty kick before that game -- while Indiana's men's team had not taken one before its championship match.
The last Men's College Cup to be decided by penalty kicks was in 1990 when UCLA beat Rutgers.
UC Santa Barbara (21-3-1)-- which had scored a late second-half goal to forge the tie and appeared to have fresher legs than the Hoosiers, who had to survive a double-overtime semifinal -- drew first blood in penalty kicks when goalkeeper Kyle Reynish turned away Indiana's first attempt and Drew McAthy converted for the Gauchos. Indiana made good on its second attempt, though, and Nolly survived a shot by Neil Jones that went over the goal. Each team converted in the third round but missed in the fourth. Nolly's save against Nate Boyden was the difference after Mike Ambersley converted Indiana's successful fifth-round kick.
"I never really look at the moves," Nolly said of his penalty-kick technique. "My focus is really on the ball. I get a read right away on what I'm going to do and what side I'm going to and then I stick with it. Those last two I felt they were going that way. I went all out for them and the ball was there."
Nolly was named the tournament's most outstanding defensive player.
Indiana appeared poised to win in regulation before McAthy, who was selected as the tournament's most outstanding offensive player, tied the game in the 82nd minute. Nolly had fallen on an earlier shot that was deflected to McAthy, who found the corner of the net before Nolly could recover.
Indiana's first-half goal came from Jacob Peterson on a shot past charging Gauchos goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.
"They say defense wins championships, and we had to defend today," Freitag said afterward. "I think our (semifinal) game against Maryland on Friday took a lot out of us.
"Soccer is a funny game. We played (UC Santa Barbara) earlier in the year and I thought it was a game we dominated. This time I thought they had a good amount of the play. Did we dodge a bullet? I'm not sure if that's a< term we should use. But it's a funny old game. Our guys played like champions under tough conditions. The crowd was for the Gauchos. All I know is we won our seventh national championship."
Gauchos coach Tim Van Steeg said he thought his team was conditioned enough to wear the Hoosiers down.
"In the second half, we had good opportunities, and in overtime we kept coming," he said. "I told the players that at the end of the day, as a coach you put something together, and you want them to do so well. Not in my wildest dreams did I think we would play that well against such a good team. I just wish we had another overtime period."
UC Santa Barbara came into the championship game on a high after ambushing Duke in the semifinals, 5-0. McAthy scored in the game's second minute and the Blue Devils, which had dispatched fourth-seeded Virginia in the quarterfinals, did not recover. The Gauchos in fact scored three goals in a nine-minute span in the second half.
John Michael Hayden scored the game-winner for the Hoosiers in their semifinal against third-seeded Maryland. His shot after a crossing pass found the net with just 48 seconds left in the second sudden-death period.
UC Santa Barb. 4, Va. Commonwealth 1; Duke 3, Virginia 0; Maryland 1, St. John's (N.Y.) 0; Indiana 4, Tulsa 0.
|Maryland||1||1||0||0 -- 2|
|Indiana||0||2||0||1 -- 3|
First half: M -- Jason Garey (Abe Thompson), 34:49.
Second half: I -- Brian Plotkin (unassisted), 51:30; I -- Mike Ambersley (unassisted), 70:11; M -- Maurice Edu (Michael Dello-Russo), 80:38.
Overtime: I -- John Michael Hayden (Danny O'Rouke, Charley Traylor), 109:12.
Shots: Maryland 10, Indiana 24. Goalkeeper saves: Maryland (Noah Palmer) 8, Indiana (Jay Nolly) 3. Corner kicks: Maryland 5, Indiana 7.
|Duke||0||0 -- 0|
|UC Santa Barb.||2||3 -- 5|
First half: UCSB -- Drew McAthy (Tony Lochhead), 1:02; UCSB -- Jonathan Davis (unassisted), 34:40.
Second half: UCSB -- Lochhead (unassisted), 59:23; UCSB -- McAthy (Bryan Byrne), 65:36; UCSB -- Matt Bly (Ivan Becerra), 68:04.
Shots: Duke 16, UC Santa Barb. 10. Goalkeeper saves: Duke (Justin Trowbridge) 4, UC Santa Barb. (Dan Kennedy) 7. Corner kicks: Duke 4, UC Santa Barb. 2.
|UC Santa Barb.||0||1||0||0||(2) -- 1|
|Indiana||1||0||0||0||(3) -- 1|
First half: I -- Jacob Peterson (Jed Zayner), 26:23.
Second half: UCSB -- Drew McAthy (unassisted), 81:01.
Overtime: Indiana wins on the basis of penalty kicks, 3-2.
Shots: UC Santa Barb. 10, Indiana 8. Goalkeeper saves: UC Santa Barb. (Dan Kennedy) 5, Indiana (Jay Nolly) 2. Corner kicks: UC Santa Barb. 10, Indiana 3.