And then there was one.
Indiana captured its seventh NCAA Men's Soccer Championship and third back-to-back title (previous back-to-back years were 1982-83 and 1998-99) in school history as the Hoosiers defeated UC Santa Barbara, 3-2, in penalty kicks on Sunday, December 12 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Indiana earned its place in the championship match after a come-from-behind 3-2 double-overtime victory over third-seeded Maryland. The final match proved another close game for the Hoosiers as IU and UCSB were tied 1-1 after regulation and two overtime periods to force the shootout. Senior goalkeeper Jay Nolly saved the final two penalty kicks and was named Most Outstanding Defensive Player at the College Cup for the second straight year. Joining Nolly on the All-Tournament team from Indiana were sophomores John Michael Hayden and Jed Zayner, junior Brian Plotkin and senior Danny O'Rourke. O'Rourke was also named a finalist for the men's 2004 Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, the highest individual honor in intercollegiate soccer. The senior midfielder, along with the two other finalists will be invited to the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis, Mo., on Friday, January 7, for a banquet where the winner will be awarded the coveted crystal soccer ball trophy.
Zayner and Jacob Peterson connected in the 27th minute to give Indiana a 1-0 advantage when Peterson took a pass from Zayner and put the ball over the head of the UCSB goalkeeper. UCSB tied the game at the 81:01 mark after a scramble in front of the Indiana net. Hayden, senior Greg Badger and junior Mike Ambersley all converted in the shootout to give IU the 3-2 advantage.
Indiana's road to the championship included a second round win over Conference opponent Michigan, 1-0, followed by a 1-0 victory against Boston College in the third round. The Hoosiers defeated Tulsa at Armstrong Stadium in the national quarterfinals, 4-0, to improve its all-time home NCAA mark to 45-3 in Bloomington. Indiana entered the NCAA Championship as the No. 2 seed and was awarded a first-round bye. With the win, the Hoosiers improved to 19-4-1 overall and gave first-year head coach Mike Freitag his first national championship as a head coach.
A record six Big Ten teams earned berths to the 2004 NCAA Men's Soccer Championship as Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State and Penn State joined Indiana in the postseason. It marked the first time in League history that six of the seven squads were selected, as the previous record of four was set in 2001 when Indiana, Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State all competed in the NCAA Championship. Big Ten Champion Michigan State was the only Conference team to fall in the first round of this year's championship, as the Spartans lost to Tulsa, 3-1. Northwestern, making its first-ever appearance in the championship, defeated Western Illinois, 4-1, in the first round but was knocked out of the tournament with a 3-2 loss against Creighton in second round action. Penn State, the No. 10 seed, earned a first-round bye and awaited the winner of the Michigan State vs. Tulsa match. The Nittany Lions suffered a heart-breaking end to their season as the two teams battled to a 1-1 tie through two overtime periods before Tulsa advanced, 4-3, on penalty kicks. Michigan defeated Akron, 2-1, in its first game, but fell to Conference foe, Indiana in the second round, 1-0. Ohio State defeated Memphis, 1-0, in Columbus to earn its first NCAA championship win in school history. The team then upset ninth-ranked and fifth-seeded Notre Dame, 2-1, to qualify for the third round for the first time in program history. The Buckeyes dropped a 3-0 decision to Duke in the Round of 16 and concluded their 2004 campaign with a 12-7-2 overall mark, which tied the school record for wins in a season.
In conjunction with the M.A.C Hermann announcement, the NSCAA also announced its 2004 All-America teams as four Big Ten athletes were among the honorees. Indiana's Drew Moor and O'Rourke were first team selections, while Nolly and Buckeye senior Justin Cook garnered third-team laurels.
Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin are the only Big Ten teams to have won NCAA Championship titles. The defending NCAA champion Hoosiers have won seven titles, Michigan State claimed back-to-back titles in 1967 and 1968 and the Badgers won their only title in 1995.