The Hoosiers weathered a final ten-minute flurry by the Bluejays in a tightly contested semifinal, while senior goalkeeper Luis Soffner made two huge saves in the game’s final five minutes to preserve the result.
“There’s a fight and a belief in this team that is special,” head coach Todd Yeagley said. “They’re really united, playing for each other…I’m very proud for these players to have the opportunity to play on Sunday and I’m proud for all of IU soccer.”
Chances were sparse in the early stretches of the game, especially after the glut of goals in the first semifinal. Indiana midfielder Nikita Kotlov had a half-chance snuffed out by Creighton goalkeeper Jeff Gal, while A.J. Corrado also forced the freshman into a save.
Hollinger-Janzen found the back of the net in the 27th minute. The Creighton back line couldn’t clear a simple diagonal ball delivered into their penalty area, and it fell to the substitute who slammed it home past Gal.
Controversy struck right before the half. Hollinger-Janzen had the ball in the back at the whistle, only for the referee Edvin Juresivc ruled that it didn’t count, much to the disdain of the Indiana traveling support.
The Hoosiers didn’t let the incident faze them.
“I thought our team handled [the disallowed goal] really well,” Yeagley said. “We could talk about, we could be upset about it, but that was not going to do anything for us in the second half.”
After the Hoosiers controlled the beginning stretches of the second half, Hollinger-Janzen missed a glorious chance to double the lead, firing well high of the target when left unmarked at the back post. Bluejays midfielder Jose Gomez had a glimmer to make Hollinger-Janzen pay for the shank, but the IU back line was swift to block his shot in the 50th minute – a recurring theme on the night, as they stifled the Hermann Trophy Finalist.
Aside from that the Bluejays struggled to create clear cut chances until the final flurry, and were dealt a blew when senior midfielder Andrew Ribeiro came off with an ankle injury with 22 minutes left in the game.
Nonetheless, Creighton pushed on, looking to attack and try to find the equalizer. Timo Pitter had a chance at a break away, only to dwell on the ball and squander the chance as the Hoosiers defense recovered to snuff out the chance. The German remained the lone scoring threat, blasting high in the 75th minute.
Head coach Elmar Bolowich lamented those missed chances, as it seemed a case of too little, too late.
“Especially in the second half, we had opportunities,” he said. “Unfortunately it took us a half to get into the game – in a championship match, that’s not a good sign – but we were only 1-0 down at the half, and we had found ourselves in that position before as well. The game was still was in reach for us, all it needed was the one goal.”
But it wouldn’t come. Creighton’s Christian Blandon came extremely close in the 88th minute to tying the game, denied a great goal by a lunging save from Luis Soffner.
“It felt good to kind of get the guys re-energized those last couple minutes,” Soffner said of the save.
Soffner was called into action again moments when defender Brendan Hines-Ike tested him from long range, in the end making an easy save, and Hollinger-Janzen’s goal held up to make the difference.
Despite the loss, Bolowich was proud of his team’s effort.
“Today, especially in the second half, they gave everything they had to turn the game around and still look for a result,” he said. “But it wasn’t meant to be on the day.”