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Soccer

College Cup: A look at Final 4 Teams Akron, Michigan State, Maryland, Indiana

All four have won national championships, led by Indiana with eight

Andrew Gutman Click to view larger
Indiana fullback Andrew Gutman is a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy, the college soccer player of the year award. (IUHoosiers.com photo)

The four men’s soccer teams coming to Santa Barbara for the NCAA College Cup all have a national championship history, with Indiana being the most successful program with eight titles.

The Hoosiers, runners-up last year to Stanford, last hoisted the NCAA championship trophy in 2012. Previous to that, they beat UCSB on penalty kicks in the 2004 College Cup final.

Akron and Maryland also have won titles in the 2000s. Akron's soccer team claimed the first NCAA Division 1 championship in any sport when it beat Louisville in the final, 1-0, at UCSB’s Harder Stadium in 2010.

Maryland won in 2005 (1-0 over New Mexico) and 2008 (1-0 over North Carolina). Before that, the Terrapins shared the title with Michigan State in 1968 after a 2-2 draw through regulation and two overtimes — there was no penalty-kick shootout to break the tie.

The 1968 co-title was the second and most recent for Michigan State. The Spartans also were co-champions in 1967, tying St. Louis in a final that was called after the first half in St. Louis because of a heavy rain storm.

There is no rain in the forecast for College Cup weekend in Santa Barbara.

Click to view larger

The action begins Friday at Harder Stadium with Akron (14-6-2) playing Michigan State (14-4-4) in the first semifinal game at 5 p.m.

No. 2 seed Indiana (20-1-2) takes on Big Ten rival and No. 11 Maryland (11-6-4) in the second semifinal at approximately 7:45 p.m.  

The final is Sunday at 5 p.m. All games will be shown on ESPNU.

Big Ten schools Indiana, Maryland and Michigan State make this the first time since 2009 that three teams from one conference are in the College Cup. The ACC in 2008 and 2009 had three of the Final Four teams.

Indiana and Maryland will be meeting for the third time. The Hoosiers won the two prior matches at home. They scored a 90th-minute goal for a 1-0 victory during the regular season and won in a shootout (4-3) after a 1-1 draw in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. 

The Akron-Michigan State clash is also a rematch. The Zips took a 2-1 nonconference game over the then-No. 8 Spartans on Oct. 9.

Here is a capsule look at the College Cup participants:

AKRON (14-6-2)

The Zips recovered from a rough 6-6-2 start to their season. They’ve since won eight straight, including tournament victories over No. 16 Syracuse, No. 1 Wake Forest and No. 9 Stanford, the three-time defending champion, on the road.

College Cup Trophy Click to view larger
The prize the four teams will be playing for this weekend at UCSB.

“Sometimes things just take time,” Jared Embick said after beating Stanford. “I remember saying at the beginning of the year this may be a bumpy ride, we may be inconsistent, but if people give us time and stick with us, I think we can be pretty good at the end of the year.”

Embick has coached the Zips to three final fours over the last four seasons. He also was the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator under former head coach Caleb Porter when Akron reached the 2009 and 2010 College Cups.

Forward Colin Biros scored the winning goal in the 81st minute of last week’s 3-2 win at Stanford, capping a brilliant display of possession and patience. Check out the video.

 

 

MICHIGAN STATE (14-4-4)

The Spartans have bounced back after losing to Maryland 1-0 in overtime in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Their run to the College Cup includes a 2-1 overtime win at No. 4 seed Louisville and a 1-0 victory at No. 13 Georgetown. They beat James Madison, 2-1, in the Elite Eight to finally get back to the College Cup.

Senior forward Ryan Sierakowski, the team’s leading goal scorer with eight, scored both goals against James Madison. He has 33 goals in his career.

Senior goalkeeper Jimmy Hague has 40 wins in his career, the second keeper in Michigan State history with 40 or more wins.

This season's 14 wins ties a single season record for the Spartans.

Coach Damon Rensing is a Spartan through and through. He played at Michigan State (1993-1996), worked as an assistant under his mentor, Joe Baum, and took the head coaching reins in 2009.

Junior midfielder Giusepe Baron is a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s player of the year award.

MARYLAND (11-6-4, No. 11 seed)

After upsetting No. 3 Kentucky, 1-0, to advance to the College Cup, forward Sebastian Elney described the feeling as “pure ecstacy. It’s just great joy.  The last 10 seconds, knowing we’re right there and we’re headed to (Santa Barbara) is a feeling like no other — never felt it before.”

The Terrapins have been a fixture in the NCAA Tournament under longtime coach Sasho Cirovski. This is their 23rd tournament appearance and eighth College Cup in his 25 years at the helm. They won titles in 2008 and 2005.

This is their first College Cup appearance since 2013.

 

 

“For our program, this is a big moment,” Cirovski said after the Elite Eight victory. “We struggled the last couple of years in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament. We challenged this team to reset the culture and the identity and bring back the Maryland quality. This team has done that.”

The Terps have done it with defense. They have not allowed a goal in their past 320 minutes of play. They shut out a Kentucky team that was ranked No. 5 in scoring offense and scored 32 goals at home while conceding just two.

The defense is led by goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair and the back line of Johannes Bergmann, Donovan Pines, Ben Di Rosa and Chase Gasper.

INDIANA (20-2-1, No. 2)

Indiana has been the standard of excellence in Division 1 college soccer.

In their 32nd straight NCAA Tournament, the Hoosiers are making a record-20th College Cup appearance and are seeking their ninth national championship. St. Louis is the all-time leader with 10.

The 20 wins this season are the most since winning 21 in 1999, which ended with a national title.

Trevor Swartz Click to view larger
Trevor Swartz is the national leader in assists with 16. (IUHoosiers.com photo)

Coach Todd Yeagley has continued the winning tradition his father started and continued until retiring in 2003. Jerry Yeagley won six titles in his illustrious career with the Hoosiers.

Todd Yeagley was an assistant coach for Indiana when it beat UCSB for the 2004 College Cup title in a penalty-kick shootout.

In 2012, just his third year as head coach, the Hoosiers won the national title, beating Georgetown. They were runners-up last year to Stanford.

Indiana has not allowed a goal in its three NCAA wins: 4-0 over UConn, 2-0 over Air Force and 1-0 against No. 7 Notre Dame.

The defense is led by Hermann Trophy semifinalists goalkeeper Trey Muse and left fullback Andrew Gutman, the Big Ten Defender of the Year.

Midfielder Trevor Swartz runs the attack. He served the ball to forward Austin Panchot for the goal that beat Notre Dame in the quarterfinals. Swartz is the national leader in assists with 16.

Senior defensive midfielder Francesco Moore provides the spark for the Hoosiers.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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