Bloomington — After winning the Big Ten tournament against Penn State on penalty kicks, the Indiana men’s soccer team needed to survive through penalty kicks again to get past St. Francis-Brooklyn in its first NCAA Tournament game last week.
The Hoosiers will look to continue to ride that defense and goalkeeping formula Thursday when they face Marquette in their second-round game in Cary, North Carolina (6 p.m., NCAA.com).
“You’ve got to be good defensively to go deep,” IU coach Todd Yeagley said. “I mean, you can win some games and get a couple of breaks here and there, but that’s not going to work for five or six games.”
On Sunday, Indiana (9-1-2) and St. Francis-Brooklyn played to a 1-1 draw through regulation and two overtimes before winning 3-1 on penalty kicks. The Hoosiers were outshot 15-7, and both teams endured cramping issues in the North Carolina heat and humidity. Sophomore forward Victor Bezerra scored IU’s lone goal at the 35:07 mark of the first half before St. Francis-Brooklyn tied the score at the 77:57 mark in the second half.
Yeagley felt the 15-day layoff between the Big Ten final and the opening round of the NCAA Tournament impacted IU’s performance. The Hoosiers also were without freshman defender Joey Maher, who was out after getting a red card against Penn State. Maher will be back Thursday against Marquette.
“The layoff, that had a little bit of impact on our sharpness and edge,” Yeagley said. “You get into a rhythm of playing for four days, and then all of the sudden you have a 15-day layoff. You have to be very careful of your training heading into the tournament of, like, keeping it competitive but also not overdoing it because the last thing we need is to take an injury in training.”
Marquette (8-2-2) will present a different challenge than St. Francis-Brooklyn. The Big East champion Golden Eagles are led by junior forward Luka Sunesson, who leads Marquette in goals (11), total points (22) and game-winning goals (2).
“They have a couple of difference makers like Brooklyn did,” Yeagley said. “But they will probably look to play a little bit more through the lines than some of the direct play we faced at times against Brooklyn, so different type of match, but certainly the stakes are the same, and we’re looking to get a good result.”
IU’s difference maker so far this postseason has been sophomore goalkeeper Roman Celentano. The 6-foot-3 Celentano, the Big Ten’s goalkeeper of the year, saved three penalty kicks against St. Francis-Brooklyn and has saved five penalty kicks over IU’s last two games. If the Hoosiers end up in penalty kicks again against Maquette, Celentano will go into it with no shortage of confidence.
“He’s explosive and long, so you take the physical talent that he has, and then he’s very good at reading kickers and he has good instincts,” Yeagley said. “Obviously we look at our opponents and give information to Roman. He takes that as he will …
“Probably as intimidating as anything, he doesn’t show any emotion. He is so confident in his ability but in such an intentional way, and there is no arrogance in that kid. It’s just pure confidence and preparation, and that’s what gives him his edge.”
MAC HERMANN SEMIFINALIST
Bezerra was named one of 15 semifinalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy this week, an award given to the most outstanding male and female players in college soccer. IU players have won the award eight times in school history, the last coming in 2018 when defender Andrew Guttman won the award for the Hoosiers.
Bezerra has scored 12 goals in 11 starts for IU and posted a team-high 27 points (12 goals, three assists).
“Victor, like anyone who has had that semifinal honor, it starts with our how the team does,” said Yeagley, a MAC Hermann Trophy winner in 1994. “There’s no secret to that. If the team does well, individual honors will follow, and Victor had done obviously very good with his scoring, just as he finished last year.”