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Sunday, December 9, 2012
Defense drives Indiana's title run

By Greg Ostendorf
ESPN.com

HOOVER, Ala. -- It's better to be lucky than good sometimes, and the Indiana University men's soccer team found that out firsthand in the 2012 NCAA men's College Cup final against Georgetown on Sunday.

Leading 1-0 in the final minutes, Indiana let the Hoyas deep in its zone, but a header by GU defenseman Tommy Muller caromed off the post. That was as close as Georgetown would get, as the Hoosiers hung on to win the eighth national championship in the program's history.

"When it hit the crossbar, I was so happy," IU goalkeeper Luis Soffner said. "Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck. I think we deserved it at that moment, and I was just really [happy] for all of our guys. If it takes a little luck, we'll definitely accept it."

For Muller, he was just doing whatever he could to get the ball toward the net. It was a last-ditch attempt to tie the game and force overtime, but ultimately, it came up short.

"The ball came in, and I just got whatever I could on it and kind of flicked it," Muller said. "By the time I turned around, I saw it kind of dropping, and I thought it was going in and then it hit the post."

It was a fitting way for Indiana to cap its championship season. The team has been predicated by defense throughout its tournament run. In the four tournament games leading up to the title game, the Hoosiers had given up a total of two goals.

Soffner, a fifth-year senior, led the way, but the entire team put an emphasis on defense when it arrived in Hoover for the College Cup, and back-to-back shutouts reflect that.

Indiana
Indiana is now two national championships behind St. Louis for the record.

"We said from the very beginning that defense is going to win championships," Soffner said. "When we're not maybe having our best offensive game, our defense comes in and every guy on the field -- all 10 guys including me -- we all come together and just fight, just not let the ball go into the net. That's our whole mentality."

Soffner was named the College Cup's Most Outstanding Defensive Player and was also named to the All-Tournament Team for his efforts.

Offensively, Indiana had numerous scoring chances, especially in the first half, but the Hoosiers didn't get on the board until midway through the second half when sophomore forward Eriq Zavaleta set up his teammate Nikita Kotlov for an easy goal.

The play got started by midfielder Patrick Doody, who sent a perfect cross in from the left side. Instead of trying to score, Zavaleta headed it back toward Kotlov, who was running in the box unguarded. Kotlov tapped it in, and that's all the Hoosiers needed.

"Patrick played a good ball to the back post," Zavaleta said. "The ball kind of drifted in the air for quite a while, and the keeper was pretty hesitant and got in no-man's-land. I had a tough angle to finish it, but I saw Nikita running in the box, and my goal was just to get the ball down to be able to let him make a play."

In the game, Kotlov and Zavaleta each finished with three shots on goal. Both players were named to the All-Tournament Team.

After the game, IU head coach Todd Yeagley was emotional when talking about the victory. His father Jerry won six national championships as the head coach of the Hoosiers from 1973 through 2003, but now, nearly a decade later, it was Todd's turn.

"It's special," the younger Yeagley said. "You can see the emotion from the players. You can see it in the locker room. It's special."