HOOVER, Ala. – With the final whistle of Indiana’s 1-0 triumph in the College Cup final, the college soccer season officially came to a close.
And what a season it has been, punctuated fittingly by an action-packed final weekend in Greater Birmingham. Here are three thoughts from the weekend in Hoover:
1. It’s fun to see Indiana soccer back on top
From the fans in the stands, to the joyous players on the field, getting to witness Indiana win its eighth overall title was a special sight indeed.
The program had waited eight long years for this moment, and head coach Todd Yeagley was at a loss for words, clearly moved for his players and for himself in the aftermath.
“You can see the emotion from them and you can see it in the locker room,” he said. “It’s something special.”
Words are hard to shape what it must be like to be in Yeagley’s shoes, the son of the IU coaching legend Jerry, guiding the program back to the summit of the college soccer landscape. However, his actions did most of the talking, as he was in the center of his team’s wild celebration.
Making it even more of a statewide triumph, Yeagley secured the title with a roster comprised of 15 players from the state of Indiana, the majority of whom surely grew up as Hoosier soccer fans. Luis Soffner, the fifth-year goalkeeper (but not a native Hoosier), was grinning ear-to-ear, and said that he “hasn’t stopped smiling” since the team began its run with a win over Xavier earlier in the tournament.
A special mention must also be made to the scores of traveling IU fans that made the trip from different corners of the country for the final, livening up Barons Park and sharing with the team’s jubilation when the clock hit zero.
2. Georgetown is here to stay
Senior midfielder Ian Christianson, as composed in the postgame press conference as he is on the field – despite having just suffered the toughest loss of his playing career – succinctly summed up how far this program has come in his four years in the nation’s capital.
“If you had asked me freshman year that we’d have ben playing in the national final I would have laughed in your faced,” he said.
That quote tells the tale. And although Georgetown, the third seed in the NCAA tournament, were far from a Cinderella tale, they certainly won a lot of respect for their two performances, and few will quickly forget Friday’s epic encounter against Maryland.
Head coach Brian Wiese has done a fantastic job in bringing this program forward, and he rode a strong senior class that played attractive soccer to the cusp of making history. They should have no shame in coming up short on the day, as it appeared the semifinal game took it all out of them; they just looked tired on the day.
Even though he faces big challenges next year with the loss of Christianson, Tommy Muller, Jimmy Nealis and Andy Riemer, the next recruiting class looks very promising, meaning it might not be long before the Hoyas are back to this point.
3. College soccer put on a great show
It may have been in the snug confines of a minor league baseball stadium, but the 2012 men’s College Cup certainly packed a punch during its showcase event.
Friday’s high-scoring battle between Maryland and Georgetown is almost certainly going to go down as a game for the ages, but the historical accomplishment of Indiana returning to the top won the weekend is the biggest story of the weekend.
College soccer may have its detractors in terms of style of play and the player development value of the college game, but none of that meant a thing to the four sets of players and their supporters who were on hand over the weekend.