HOOVER, Ala. – When Georgetown and Indiana take the field to decide the 2012 College Cup final on Sunday, it’s difficult to imagine the historical gap between the two respective teams being any larger.
Indiana is searching for an eighth title in its history, the storied program rallying on a theme dubbed the “Quest for Eight.” Meanwhile, the Hoyas are breaking new ground, reaching the first title game in program history, aiming to secure the third overall NCAA title for the school’s athletic department.
According to Hoosiers head coach Todd Yeagley, that historical gulf won’t – and can’t – be a factor on the field come Sunday.
“We’re proud to be in our 14th final and 18th College Cup. That’s all historical pieces to it and it helps our proud tradition grow deeper and richer,” he told reporters in a press conference.
“These guys know, and the players before them knew, that what goes on between the lines come game time is where that piece is made. Georgetown nor our players better be thinking about those pieces at that time. It’s about that we have to do our job, we have to win this game, then the result will take care of itself and the mark will be left.”
Playing for a program such as Indiana, expectations to be playing at this point in the season are inherent. The storied tradition of IU soccer dates back to the great teams that played and won six championships under Todd’s father Jerry (a seventh was won in 2004, a year after his retirement).
Contrasting that are the expectations the Hoyas had entering this season. The only stated goal for this group prior to the start of the season was to make it to Red Bull Arena, site of the Big East tournament semifinal (ironically, the venue was switched to PPL Park because of Hurricane Sandy). Georgetown accomplished the goal, eventually coming within 30 seconds of winning the tournament crown, before a heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame.
But that was far from the only target set by the group.
“I think we always had bigger plans than just Red Bull,” Georgetown defender Tommy Muller said. “But the idea behind that was it was something we had never done before, and so we felt like if we achieved that goal, that the NCAA would kind of fall into place.
“It was kind of one step at a time so once we got [to the Big East semifinal], once we got to the championship, after that game we think that prepared us in a lot of ways for the NCAA. That wasn’t the only goal; that was probably the first goal.”
Preseason expectations are now moot – both teams must deal with the short turnaround and focus on the biggest game of the season. That could prove to be a biggest test for the Hoyas specifically, after the dramatic and emotional 4-4 draw against Maryland, eventually triumphing on penalty kicks.
“The challenge for our guys is just letting go and, as best as we can, forgetting about one of the most exciting soccer matches that you can be a part of in the College Cup and shifting gears to total preparations for Indiana, who cause their own set of problems,” Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese said.
Both sides feel their respective regular seasons have them ready for this moment.
“Our season has prepared us,” Yeagley said. “Years and years ago the format for Indiana was to play the toughest teams you can early in the year, and then our conference is very difficult, and that would prepare you. You might take a couple hits here or there, but when you come to these games, you know you won’t see any surprises.”
Said Wiese: “This group is where they are right now because they have handled each day incredibly professionally and very well . . . if you can get to Red Bull Arena in the league we play in, which was unquestionably the best conference in the country, you know you are in a spot to go on a good run if everything lines up.”
However Sunday’s game is decided, whether on a moment of brilliance from Georgetown's Steve Neumann or Indiana’s Eriq Zavaleta, or just a tough, grinding defensive battle, a new chapter in a both programs’ history is being written – even if for the 90 minutes (or more), that fact doesn’t cross anyone’s mind.
College Cup Final:
Sunday, December 9, 2:00 pm ET, ESPNU