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Spring 2021 NCAA Men’s Soccer Sweet 16 Preview: #3 Indiana vs Marquette

Can the Golden Eagles pull off the upset to reach the Elite Eight for the first time in program history?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 15 Ball State at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Spring 2021 NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament

Sweet Sixteen

#3 Indiana Hoosiers (9-1-2, 7-1-0 Big Ten) vs Marquette Golden Eagles (8-2-2, 5-1-1 Big East)

Date: Thursday, May 6, 2021
Time: 5pm Central
Location: WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina
Streaming: GoHeels.com, if you can believe that.
Live Stats: NCAA.com
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteSoccer
All-Time Series: Marquette is 0-10-1 all time against Indiana, with the last meeting coming in 2014 and the draw coming in 1986.

May as well start our preview here by watching some video of Marquette’s most recent outing, which is officially a 0-0 draw with Loyola Marymount. Because it was an NCAA tournament match, though, it went to penalty kicks to decide who would advance, and the Golden Eagles prevailed 3-1 in that department.

Sunday’s match against the Lions marked the ninth time in 12 matches this spring season that Marquette went to overtime and the fourth time that the Golden Eagles went into a second overtime period. Because of all that extra time that’s been played this season, MU has figured out a way to cram more than an entire extra match — 95 minutes and 59 seconds — into their 12 contests. I don’t know if that’s helpful to Marquette. A little extra experience is good, especially in a season that’s been shortened down like this spring has, but on the other side of things, having to constantly play more than 90 minutes at a stretch can lead to a little extra wear and tear.

The PK win over Loyola Marymount has sent Marquette on to the round of 16 in this spring’s NCAA tournament. It is just the second time in program history that the Golden Eagles have reached this stage of the national championship. In a weird coincidence, it’s the second straight NCAA tournament appearance that has sent MU on to the Sweet 16, just not in consecutive seasons. The last time Marquette was in the NCAA tournament was 2013, and the Golden Eagles were the #9 national seed in that event. That earned them a bye to the second round, where they prevailed over Akron, 1-0, in overtime. That gave them a Sweet 16 match against #8 seed Virginia, where the Cavaliers prevailed 3-1.

Which means that this is as far as Marquette has ever gotten in the NCAA tournament before. They’ve never advanced past the Sweet 16, because MU has only ever been in four NCAA tournaments, including this one, and they’ve only ever advanced in two of them, including this one that’s still going on. It’s a shot at history at best, and a historically notable achievement at worst.

Indiana came into this spring’s NCAA tournament as the #3 national seed in the field, and in the most recent United Soccer Coaches rankings, they were the #2 team in the country. They lost just once this season, back in match #3 of the year on February 27th as Northwestern slipped in a goal in the 88th minute to win 1-0. The Hoosiers closed their regular season out with three straight shutouts, blanking Rutgers, Northwestern (3-0 there in a revenge game) and then-#11 Michigan, although they needed 100 minutes and 34 seconds to end up with the win against the Wolverines.

In the Big Ten tournament, the shutout streak continued for two matches with a 3-0 win against Northwestern (I feel like IU might have been angry about that early loss) and a 2-0 win over Maryland in the semifinals. The title match was against #14 Penn State, and after going down to 10 men in the 81st minute AND giving up a goal in the 82nd minute, IU held it together long enough to get to penalty kicks where they made their first three and and the Nittany Lions missed their first two leading to the 3-2 win for Indiana.

Penalty kicks were the order of the day for Indiana in their first match of the NCAA tournament, just like they were for Marquette. However, IU got forced to extra time by St. Francis Brooklyn, whereas Marquette went to a scoreless draw with Loyola Marymount. Victor Bezerra scored in the 36th minute to put IU out in front and give the Hoosiers control of the match on the scoreboard. They weren’t in control of things on the field, though, as shots were even 4-4 at halftime and St. Francis outshout Indiana 6-2 after halftime. That led to a 78th minute goal from El Mahdi Youssoufi that knotted the game up at one goal each.

Each side recorded just one shot in the first overtime, but it was all St. Francis in the second extra session. The Terriers recorded four shots, and IU’s Roman Celentano needed to make a save in the 105th minute to keep the match going. That pushed things along to penalty kicks, where it was only 1-0 Indiana after two rounds. Both sides made their third attempts before Ryan Wittenbrink gave IU their third make and after Celentano made a relatively easy save on the Terriers’ fourth attempt, that sent Indiana on to meet Marquette.

Here’s the long and short of the analysis of this upcoming match: Either Indiana’s going to run Marquette over or Marquette’s “bend but don’t break” style is going to give the Hoosiers fits while giving the Golden Eagles a chance to win. We saw this happen with Loyola Marymount, as the Lions had come into the game scoring 11 goals in eight matches while allowing only two. Indiana? 26 goals scored in 12 matches, only four goals allowed. LMU doesn’t have the firepower that Indiana has, and that might be the tipping point for how Thursday’s encounter goes.

With that said, the goals are lopsided for IU, but not the shots. On average, they fire off 11.5 shots per game while allowing 8.7 per contest. If Marquette can stop them from putting shots on goal — they’re shooting 19% on the year against just 4% for their opponents — then IU’s style is going to lead to the Golden Eagles keeping themselves around long enough to pull this out.

Item #1 on the scouting report has to be “Stop Victor Bezerra at nearly all costs.” The sophomore from Chicago has scored 12 of Indiana’s 26 goals this season, and no one else has scored more than four. Bezerra will be coming into Thursday’s match on a four match scoring streak, and that includes banging in one of only two shots against St. Francis. The Terriers contained him almost better than anyone else on IU’s schedule, but he still put a ball in the net. Oh, and Bezerra has three assists as well, so it’s not like he’s a one dimensional offensive threat.

Six different Hoosiers have recorded multiple assists this season, although Bezerra doing his best Gatling Gun impression has probably helped boost the totals in that department. Spencer Glass has five helpers on the year, but the senior defender from Fort Wayne has not played since March 27th against Michigan. Joe Schmidt is next on the assist chart with four on the year, although he got there by recording one in each of Indiana’s three Big Ten Tournament matches.

The aforementioned Roman Celentano has played all but seven minutes in net for Indiana this season, so we can safely presume that he’ll be running the defense against the Golden Eagles. He’s averaging 3.4 saves per game while stopping a whopping 91% of shots on goal against him. If both teams’ trends hold true here, Marquette is going to have to fight for every single opportunity that they get against Celentano, and they’re going to have to be extremely creative about how they generate their chances of shooting at him.