Indiana Soccer: Hoosiers Win Big Ten Tournament on Penalty Kicks

Victor Bezerra had an early score and then had one of Indiana's three successful goals in  the penalty-kick win over Penn State Saturday as the Hoosiers claimed another Big Ten Tournament title.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Deciding a soccer tournament on penalty kicks is never the optimal situation, but it turned out well for Indiana on Saturday in the Big Ten Tournament final against Penn State. Roman Celentano, the league's best goalkeeper, made two penalty-kick saves to help the Hoosiers claim the title.

The game was tied at 1-1 during regulation, and nothing happened during the two overtime periods, forcing the five-kick penalty round to decide a champion. And in the final round with the Hoosiers up 3-2, Celentano dove to his left and got a hand on Callum Pritchatt's shot. It hit the post and rolled near the goal line but didn't go in, giving the Hoosiers the win.

It was the third straight year that No. 3-ranked Indiana (9-1-1) won the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles, a triple double. This was IU’s 11th regular season, tournament double in program history. The rest of the conference has seven combined doubles.

"We've won titles, and we're always talking about titles, but This one is the one I'm excited about, because the target on us gets bigger,'' Indiana coach Todd Yeagley said. "Having Roman makes all of us look pretty special. The celebration was pretty special, one of those days that you don't forget.''

Victor Bezerra, the league's top scorer and Most Valuable Player,  opened the scoring for Indiana in the 40th minute. He and redshirt sophomore forward Ryan Wittenbrink played the one-two game at the edge of the box, with Bezerra taking the return pass and slotting it past the Penn State keeper on his near post.

Indiana went down to 10 men in the 80th minute after a Joey Maher red card and  Penn State immediately took advantage of the man advantage. Liam Butts got the game-tying goal after a loose ball inside the 6-yard box found his foot for the tap-in goal.

"That was the hardest stretch we've had all year, to be honest,'' Yeagley said. "I reminded them that we could get through this, that we just had to dig deeper. I thought we made it someone predictable in what we gave them, but Roman and the defenders handled it really well and I'm sure that frustrated them. You never really want to get to penalty kicks, but I was fine with it when we got there. I thought we played really well down a man, especially since it's something we haven't had to do much.''

The Butts score was the first goal Celentano had allowed in the tournament, and it was only the third goal he has allowed all season.

Indiana didn't have a chance to celebrate the Big Ten Title because they won it without playing their final game. This was different, and being at home made it even more special. 

"It was neat. It was family, which was most important,'' Yeagley said. "What better way to finish this stage of your career to celebrate a title. We wish there would have been 5,000 or 6,000 fans, that would have been special, but they really enjoyed celebrating it on the field was great to watch. 

Bezerra, senior forward Thomas Warr and redshirt junior Joe Schmidt all made their respective penalty attempts.

"We train with good purpose on the penalties, and once you win a couple as a group, it's a different level of confidence. It helps having Roman too, of course.''

 Next up for Indiana is the 2020-21 NCAA Tournament. The 36-team field will be selected at Noon ET on Monday. The tournament will begin April 29 and conclude with the national championship match on May 17. 

The entire tournament will be played in Cary, N.C. and the surrounding areas.