2003 Big Ten Men's Soccer Championship - Indiana 1, Penn State 1 (Indiana Wins Title, 4-1, on Penalty Kicks)
Nov. 16, 2003
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Not even the greatest writers in the world could have collaborated to script a better ending to the 2003 Big Ten Men's Soccer Championship. Sunday's final game at Indiana had all the elements of a truly epic battle. There was certainly the blood, sweat, and tears of a heavyweight fight, but there was also the nail-biting intensity, edge-of-your-seat action, and yes, even a little fairy-tale ending that was penned into Sunday's plot.
In the end, top-seed and Big Ten regular season champion, Indiana, stood victorious on its home field, after claiming the 2003 postseason championship over No. 6 Penn State, with a 4-1 advantage on penalty kicks.
As if 110 minutes of action between last year's postseason champion and this year's regular season champion wasn't enough, Indiana's legendary coach Jerry Yeagley was able to walk off the field at Bill Armstrong Stadium in front of 2,620 fans, victorious in his last Big Ten Conference game of his illustrious 31-year career.
"I wanted my last Big Ten game here at IU to have the kind of performance that I would be proud of, and it really was," Yeagley said. "The score was disappointing, but the performance, the chances we created and the way they played with heart, I was very proud of."
For Indiana, Sunday's win marked the 10th Big Ten postseason championship for the Hoosiers, which equals the number of regular season conference titles they have won since the inception of Big Ten men's soccer in 1991.
Penn State turned around a disappointing season into one of the most remarkable comebacks this year. Barry Gorman's Nittany Lions won just two of seven games in October, but scratched their way back into the Big Ten picture with their performance in their final games.
The Penn State/Indiana series has been just that this year. With Indiana hosting a 2-0 lead in the regular season game, lightning postponed the game when it was just three minutes away from being an official game. PSU was forced to come back to Bloomington for the second time on Nov. 8, and had the Hoosiers on the ropes at halftime, 2-0. Indiana stormed back in the second half to score three unanswered goals in the final 30 minutes to win, 3-2, and clinched the Big Ten regular season championship in doing so.
Penn State earned the right to defend it postseason title from last year, as the Nittany Lions fought back to the Big Ten Championship final game with a2-1 victory over No. 3 Michigan State on Thursday, and a 1-0 win over No. 7 Northwestern on Friday.
And just to sweeten this year's final game even more, the Nittany Lions took the Hoosiers to two overtimes in the semifinal of last year's championship and then advanced past Indiana, 4-2, on penalty kicks.
"I credit Penn State," said Yeagley. "To play three games in five days, they hung in there."
It was certainly clear that not one player on the field Sunday, or any of the coaches for that matter, wanted the game to be decided on penalty kicks. They game was fought too hard to force luck to play the determining factor in the game's outcome.
The game called for one team to out-shoot the other for the championship. So perhaps it was only fitting that the Hoosiers, who out-shot the Nittany Lions in every period, including both overtimes, were able to win on penalty kicks, 4-1.
"We practiced penalty kicks because we remembered how we were eliminated last year," Yeagley said. "We practiced them some last year but perhaps not as much. We have been practicing for the last couple weeks, everyday after training the guys who were taking them, and they picked their order. We asked for the guys who wanted to take them, and some guys don't and some do, and Drew Moor said, 'I want to be first.' They picked their order and they buried them."
Moor was sent to the box for the first attempt and drilled his shot into the lower left corner past a diving Matt Novchich. Penn State's Gabe Bernstein then delivered a rocket, which found the top shelf of the goal after deflecting of Jay Nolly's gloves. Ned Grabavoy, who was named the Big Ten Championship Offensive MVP following the game, also posted a goal to give IU the 2-1 advantage. David Walters, who assisted on Penn State's lone goal in regulation, was stopped by Nolly as the Hoosier keeper and Big Ten Championship Defensive MVP, gave Indiana some breathing room.
Vijay Dias extended Indiana's lead to 3-1 after finding the top-left shelf. Joe Zewe, one of Penn State's top leaders, was also stopped by an incredible save by Nolly. All that was left between Indiana and its 10th Big Ten Championship title was one more Hoosier goal. Brian Plotkin, who scored the Hoosiers' goal in regulation, found the lower-left corner once again sending the Indiana coaches and players onto the field in jubilation, and the Penn State players to their knees in dejection.
Nolly made just two saves in regulation, but it was his two saves on the penalty kicks that clinched the win for IU. The junior's counterpart, Novchich, recorded four saves, but was kept very active throughout the day as Indiana out-shot the Nittany Lions, 17-4.
In fact, Novchich used every part of his body to make sure the Hoosiers didn't slip one past him in the waning moments of the game. With just 43 seconds left in the second overtime, Dias split two PSU defenders and served a cross-pass into the box to Peterson, who quickly got a shot off. The ball, however, careened right off of Novchich's face and back into a party of players that created quite a scramble. Plotkin dove to the ground and attempted a shot, but Novchich was there once again making a huge body stop for Penn State.
"Their goalie (Matt Novchich) played very well," Yeagley said. "I don't know how he made that save at the end with the cross Vijay (Dias) put in there."
Both goals came in the first half, with Indiana jumping ahead first at the 23:56 mark. Plotkin scored his six goal of the year, on a double-assist from Grabavoy and freshman Jacob Peterson, to give the Hoosiers the 1-0 lead. Grabavoy received a touch-pass from Peterson on the left side, and then led Plotkin into the box, where the Hoosier sophomore one-touched the ball into the lower left corner of the goal past Novchich.
Penn State's Mike Lindemann picked the right time to score his first goal of the season, as he headed a shot in with less than two minutes remaining in the half to tie the game. Walters served a beautiful corner kick into the box where Lindemann eagerly awaited unmanned. Lindemann scaled higher than two Hoosier defenders who were late to the ball and headed the shot past Nolly.
Indiana out-shot the Nittany Lions in the first half, 5-1, and denied Penn State a shot until the 44th minute when the goal occurred. The game was also more than 22 minutes old before the first shot between both teams was even taken.
With 15:08 remaining in the first half, Peterson split two Nittany Lions defenders and just pulled a left-footer passed the right post. Just one minute after the Peterson shot, Grabavoy charged down the center of the field and appeared to have an edge on his defender. Grabavoy was forced to chip the ball from 20 yards out that soared high over the crossbar.
Penn State committed 30 fouls in the game to Indiana's 11. PSU tallied 15 in the first half, while Indiana committed just six. In the 36th minute, an altercation occurred on the Indiana goal line. Nolly jumped to snag a PSU serve and collided with Penn State's Zewe. IU freshman Jed Zayner appeared to have exchanged words with Zewe, who then tossed Zayner to the ground prompting Nolly to step in. The referee was quick to step in and issue both teams warnings but no cards were given.
Indiana came out of halftime wanting to attack and take control of the game. In the 46th minute, Grabavoy served a cross pass into the box where sophomore Pat Yates headed a shot that was saved by Novchich. The save was the first of the game for either team.
The Hoosiers continued to put pressure on the PSU defense throughout the early part of the second half, but the Penn State defenders locked down midway through the final stanza of regulation and began forcing Indiana to alter its offensive attack. The Hoosiers continued to slip the ball out of the midfield and back into IU territory to regroup.
Indiana was able to penetrate the PSU defense with 11:37 remaining, as Dias served another beautiful cross from the right side of the field to the far post. Moor headed the ball to the ground, but it bounced high near the goal line and over the crossbar.
Of the four shots Penn State took in the 110 minutes of play, Severs took two while the other two were taken by Lindemann. A total of eight different Hoosiers split up Indiana's 17 shots on the day, with Grabavoy and Yates leading the Cream and Crimson with three a piece.
Sunday's win is not technically a win for Indiana, who earned the Big Ten's berth into the NCAA Tournament. In soccer, the game is officially ruled a tie, giving Penn State its first tie of the year as the Nittany Lions end their season 9-10-1. Indiana heads into NCAA play with a record of 12-3-5.