CARY, N.C. – Lightning may not strike twice, but lightning and a goal works just fine, too.
After sitting out a weather delay in the team bus for nearly an hour because of lightning, Indiana came out right after the break and got a goal from Ryan Wittenbrink, and then added another in the second half to beat Seton Hall 2-0 in the NCAA men's soccer tournament quarterfinal.
WIth the win, Indiana (11-1-2) advances to its 21st College Cup, soccer's version of the Final Four. They will play Pittsburgh, a first-time entrant, on Friday in the national semifinals. Mission accomplished, making it to the Final Four. But the big goal, adding a ninth national title, still remains. It's getting closer, though, with two games to go.
It's been a crazy year, with the usual fall season getting pushed to the spring because of COVID-19. And the Hoosiers are still finding unprecedented success, even on a bad weather day.
"We've never had this, but we haven't had any of this stuff that we've dealt with all year,'' Indiana coach Todd Yeagley said. "This is a special game, and to get into a Final Four is really special. (During the delay), we just kept reminding them about the details and being able to finish it off. I'm just really proud of these guys. They're digging deep.''
The two teams had played to a scoreless tie through the first 42 minutes when the lightning rolled in and the players were moved off the field. Indiana spent the time in its bus, but then came out firing. Wittenbrink took the ball on the left side, cut across the box and scored with a low shot to the right corner.
"He's scored some monster goals for us this year. The goal at Rutgers, the goal at Michigan, we don't win the Big Ten title without that,'' Yeagley said. "We continue to lean on these guys, these program guys who just keep getting better every year. He's just coming into his own this year, and it's great to see.''
The quick goal allowed the Hoosiers to breathe a bit, and after halftime, they were ready to go.
"The goal was key, because it gave us a shot of confidence within the group,'' Yeagley said. "When you've got a 1-0 lead in the quarterfinal, you've got a lot of juice in you. The guys dug in and played smart, and I felt in control of the game, but sometimes the ball bounces in a disadvantageous way. Hats off to Seton Hall, that's a good team that's back on the national scene.''
Rain kept the middle of the field soaking wet, and Indiana was careful not to turn the ball over in the middle of the field. Seton Hall kept bringing people forward, and kept the pressure on the Hoosiers.
They responded well.
"Defensively, it's the strength of our program, and I always feel like we can limit chances,'' Yeagley said. "I felt like we were able to do that, especially in the first 30. They send a lot of bodies forward and they are an attack-minded team. We did a good job of not letting them find a rhythm.''
Indiana took a 2-0 lead in the 58th minute when Maouloune Goumballe played a ball across the front of goal for senior forward Thomas Warr to tap into the back of the net.
Seton Hall had plenty of chances, but Indiana's defenders were up for the task and keeper Roman Celentano was excellent as always. It was his ninth shutout of the season, and the celebration was on.
"This one is certainly different, and we have to take a moment and enjoy and celebrate what IU soccer does,'' Yeagley said. "The jersey gives you a lot of pride and responsibility, and I want them to understand that this (College Cup trip) is theirs. Hopefully there's more to this year, and that we have another big celebration
"Let's enjoy this, but don't forget the ultimate mark on the program is to change the (number of stars on the) jersey.''
NCAA quarterfinal results
- PITTSBURGH 3, WASHINGTON 0: No. 2 seed Pittsburgh scored three second-half goals and advanced to the school's first College Cup with a convincing 3-0 lead over No. 7 seed Washington. Pittsburgh got goals from Valentin Noel, Bertin Jacquesson and Velko Petkovic in the win.
- MARSHALL 1, GEORGETOWN 0: Reigning national champion Georgetown was knocked out of the tournament by upstart Marshall. The Thundering Herd won on a goal in the 70th minute on a goal by Jamil Roberts.
- NORTH CAROLINA 2, WAKE FOREST 1: North Carolina found itself down 1-0 after 10 minutes of play, but that deficit was erased 32 seconds later. Giovanni Montesdeoca was left unmarked in the box, burying an 11th-minute, first-touch rebound for the Tar Heels after their initial cross was headed down right to the senior. UNC went ahead for good in the 58th minute when Santiago Herrera anticipated a blocked free kick and ripped a left-footed shot into the top left corner. Carolina also returns to the College Cup for the first time since 2017.
College Cup schedule
- Friday's semifinal games (May 14)
- Pittsburgh vs. Indiana, time TBA.
- Marshall vs. North Carolina, time TBA.
- Monday's championship game (May 17)
- Teams TBA, 8 p.m. ET