CARY, N.C. – The first time an Indiana team went to the College Cup – college soccer's version of the Final Four – a young Jerry Yeagley was the coach, and a dynasty was in its infancy way back in 1976
The Hoosiers won a semifinal game against Hartwick, but lost in their first shot at a national title, falling to San Francisco. Todd Yeagley, Jerry's exuberant 4-year-old son, watched every minute of it.
On Friday night, Indiana will play in its 21st College Cup and Todd Yeagley, who's now Indiana's coach, has been to every single one of them. He's celebrated with his father, and shed a tear or two as well after losses. He played in two of them himself, and his final game as a Hoosier was a 1994 loss to Virginia in the final, which still hurts to this day.
He watched alongside his father in 2003 when Jerry ended his career in style with a national title, his sixth. He watched from the stands the following year as Mike Freitag coached the Hoosiers to another title, and won one himself in 2012.
Yep, he's seen it all, from every angle.
And now, he here is again, for the 21st time. His Hoosiers, the No. 3 seed in this year's spring event, get No. 2 seed Pittsburgh in Friday night's national semifinal. TV: ESPNU, 8 p.m. ET) But don't think for a minute that Yeagley doesn't take this for granted.
He knows how special this is.
Every. Single. Time
"You're making me feel older. I'd like to say I was too young to go to some, but that's not true,'' Yeagley said. ''Everyone is special. This is No. 21 for us, and we're very proud of that, but it's No. 1 for this group. And I'm excited for this team to have the opportunity to leave the ultimate mark.''
Indiana made the College Cup twice in the 1970s, six times in the 1980s, five times in the 1990s, four times in the 2000s, and four times since 2010. This is Todd's fourth trip as head coach, and he's won one title (2012)
None of the trips have been like this one, though. Because of COVID-19, the traditional fall season was condensed and moved to the spring. And when the NCAA Tournament started, all 36 teams descended on North Carolina, and they remain in a bubble until the tournament ends next week.
That in itself is a new experience, but it's also made it much easier for Yeagley and his players to simply slide into the Final Four, as opposed to all the logistical nightmares and nervousness in traveling to the finals.
They're already there.
"I think there is something to that, especially with this team with so many players who haven't played in a College Cup,'' Yeagley said. "Not having to move this morning was quite nice. There are so many things this year that are different and new. It's great to be here with finals behind us. Last week we had a really stressful first few games with the guys managing a lot.
"It's nice there a lot of things that we don't have to necessarily manage now, because we're already here. We want them to enjoy every bit of it and have fun. That's the balance of enjoying the moment and keeping locked it. I've enjoyed less of the logistics, to be honest with you.''
What's also nice is that Hoosiers have had a couple of weeks to adjust to the warmer and more humid Carolina weather and the different field conditions.
"The comfort of adapting to the weather, too, that's a big thing,'' Yeagley said. "We hadn't played above 60 all year before we got here, so we've gotten used to the Carolina temps. I feel good about that, and feel good about the training rhythm, and where we are.
"I'm just happy to be in one as a coach and a participant once again. I'm just excited. We have a lot of new faces who haven't been to a College Cup. We have a lot of sophomores playing, and I'm excited for them to have this experience.''
The 21st College Cup team is different from all the rest because, well, that's simply how it works. The Hoosiers are 11-1-2, and are ranked No. 2 in the country. They are the No. 3 seed here.
And they've been very good all year. Not off-the-charts dominant, but pretty darn good. Do they have a chance to win it all and claim that ninth national title?
Of course they do.
"I think every team is uniquely different. Obviously we've had recent Final Four appearances, but this team is very different from the 2017, 2018 teams,'' Yeagley said. "The 2018 team was a really mature team that came so close and had everything there and just came up short in the semi.
"This team is not a team that's overwhelmed its opponent. We don't kid ourselves and feel that's the way we're going to go out. We can play really good soccer and this team is very capable.''
Indiana has rolled through the season thanks to Herrmann Award candidate Victor Bezerra leading the offense and goalkeeper Roman Celentano holding things down in front of the net. The back line is solid, the passing good. It's not an explosive team, but they get the job done.
Game after game.
"We have an outstanding goalkeeper, a strong spine and a goal scorer. And those ingredients have proved very important to us in many of our title runs,'' Yeagley said. "Our roles are very defined at this point, and thats so important.
"There's also a great grit about this group, and it's developed over the course of a season. And that's what's been cool about it. It's not like it was there on Day 1. They've built into it, and that belief of winning when we weren't playing well was important. We've won so many different ways and I think it's a really important thing for a team at this point.''
Yeagley also likes that they've found different ways to win all season, and nothing is going to surprise them at this level. They can adjust on the fly as needed, and shut people down in a variety of ways.
"We've had a couple of bad runs, but we've also been dominant in big games against good teams,'' Yeagley said. "In the first half against Penn State, we were in full control and I look at them as a Final Four-level team.
"This is a smart group, a fun group, and they've been having fun down here. I think they're in a good place mentally, and I've looking forward to the next few steps.''
Indiana's College Cup history
- 1976 – Beat Hartwick 2-1 in semifinals, lost to San Francisco 1-0 in final in Jerry Yeagley's first trip to the College Cup in Philadephia. His son Todd was there; he was four years old.
- 1978 – Beat Philadelphia 2-0 in semifinals, lost to San Francisco 2-0 in final.
- 1980 – Beat Hartwick 5-0 in semifinals and lost to San Francisco 4-3 in final.
- 1982 – Beat SIU-Edwardsville 1-0 in semifinals and beat Duke 2-1 in eight overtimes for the school's first-ever soccer national title and Jerry Yeagley's first title. His son Todd was there. He was 10 years old.
- 1983 – Beat Virginia 3-1 in semifinals and beat Columbia 1-0 in overtime in final for Indiana's second national title.
- 1984 – Beat Hartwick 2-1 in semifinal and lost to Clemson 2-1 in final.
- 1988 – Beat Portland 1-0 in semifinals and beat Howard 1-0 in final for Indiana's third national title. It was the lone title won in Bloomington.
- 1989 – Lost to Santa Clara 4-2 in semifinals.
- 1991 – Lost to Santa Clara 2-0 in semifinals during Todd Yeagley's freshman year as a player.
- 1994 – Beat UCLA 4-1 in semifinals and lost to Virginia 1-0 in final in Todd Yeagley's final game as an Indiana player.
- 1997 – Lost to UCLA 1-0 in three overtimes in semifinal.
- 1998 – Beat Santa Clara 4-0 in semifinal and beat Stanford 3-1 in final for Indiana fourth national title.
- 1999 – Beat UCLA 3-2 in four overtimes in semifinal and beat Santa Clara 1-0 in final for Indiana's fifth national title.
- 2000 – Lost to Creighton 2-1 in three overtimes in semifinals.
- 2001 – Beat St. John's 2-1 in two overtimes in semifinals, lost to North Carolina 2-0 in final.
- 2003 – Beat Santa Clara 1-0 in semifinals and beat St. John's 2-1 in title game for Indiana's sixth national title. It was Jerry Yeagley's final game as an Indiana head coach. Todd Yeagley was there as a volunteer assistant coach on his father's staff and he was 31 years old. It was Jerry's 554th and final win at Indiana, an NCAA record.
- 2004 – Beat Maryland 3-2 in two overtimes in semifinals and beat UC-Santa Barbara 1-1 on penalty kicks in final for Indiana's seventh national title. It was the first national title for coach Mike Freitag, who played at Indiana and was an assistant coach to Jerry Yeagley for 11 years.
- 2012 – Beat Creighton 1-0 in semifinals, Beat Georgetown 1-0 in final for Indiana's eighth national title and Todd Yeagley's first as a head coach. It was his first College Cup as a head coach. He was 40 years old.
- 2017 – Beat North Carolina 1-0 in semifinals and lost to Stanford 1-0 in two overtimes in final.
- 2018 – Lost to Maryland 2-0 in semifinals.
- 2021 – Will face Pittsburgh in national semifinals on Friday night.