Eight straight: Indiana beats Saint Louis 1-0 to get promoted to the Sweet 16 for the eighth straight year

You may be familiar with the numerous coincidences surrounding the 2022 NCAA tournament run in Indiana.

Indiana ranked 13th in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll, then was seeded 13th in the NCAA tournament, and this is head coach Todd Yeagley’s 13th season at the helm.

Bizarre right? Well, there’s one more to add that not only ties more numbers together but also reveals nearly a decade’s worth of conquests.

Indiana has eight all-time national championships. After beating Saint Louis 1-0 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday, the team has now made the Sweet 16 for the eighth in a row Season. That’s the longest active streak in Division I men’s football, information Yeagley didn’t know until after the game.

“We’ve been able to get a lot of those rounds in the past,” Yeagley said after the game. “And having the longest current streak (is) awesome. I specifically don’t always ask or look for it because I just want us to be here and then we’ll achieve what we’ve achieved.”

To reach that benchmark, Indiana had to defeat Saint Louis, the only other program to win more college cups than the Hoosiers. Yes, Indiana had home field advantage. Yet, as Yeagley pointed out, Saint Louis had the advantage of recently playing the first round on Thursday and savoring tournament success while getting adequate rest ahead of Sunday’s game.

Indiana had not played since the Big Ten tournament finals a week ago and almost succumbed to intense pressing from Saint Louis in the first 15 minutes of the game. The Billikens controlled the midfield heavily during this period. Indiana defenseman Joey Maher barely deflected a shot that would have hit the back of the net to keep the score.

As Saint Louis’ fast-paced play slowed, the Hoosiers created chances more easily and held a 6-4 shooting advantage at the break. The Hoosiers’ only shot on goal came from defenseman Daniel Munie, whose shot was saved at close range under early pressure from Saint Louis.

Ten minutes after the break, a deflected corner in the penalty area found Indiana forward Karsen Henderlong, who headed the ball straight to the crossbar. Yeagley replaced Henderlong to counter Saint Louis’ physical defense and said the forward was close to finishing several key games.

And really, that’s the memo for this match. Both sides combined for 27 shots. The two teams played well enough defensively that it looked like the first to score would win before the end of the ordinance. Indeed, that’s how the game played out, thanks to Indiana’s consistent goalscorer Ryan Wittenbrink.

During the game, Wittenbrink mainly acted on the wings and tried to drive into the box but was frequently intercepted by the Saint Louis defenders. At one point, Wittenbrink sliced ​​into the penalty area instead of pushing further towards the baseline of the field. Yeagley said his excitement rose when he saw Wittenbrink make the move.

“Witt does such a good job of reading the defense, as we call it,” Yeagley said. “He’s like the quarterback. He only sees the second defender in his movement. Is there a way to get to the top of the box, or is there a better way to the bottom line?”

Wittenbrink took two extra touches and powerfully slammed the ball into the back right corner of the net. The decisive goal came just 15 minutes before the end.

“When I score goals, you like a little blackout for lack of a better term,” said Wittenbrink after the game. “But yeah, cut in and got a good angle and was able to pin it back.”

Then came the celebration.

“Yes, I think you realize that it takes a little while,” said Wittenbrink. “I’m just running around a bit. I don’t really know what to do. And I’m just thinking something, I’m thinking. I’ve been a penguin a lot this year, a little waddling, but it’s just exciting.”

Sunday’s goal was Wittenbrink’s team-leading ninth of the season. Wait, Indiana is seeking its ninth championship in this NCAA tournament. Double nine and you get 18, Wittenbrink’s number. Indiana made the Sweet 16 for the eighth straight year. Double down on eight and you get 16.

OK, that’s enough. But hey, with Marshall stunning No. 4 Virginia shortly after Indiana won, next weekend’s Sweet 16 matchup offers a rematch from the 2020-21 national championship game that Indiana lost. Indiana will host Marshall next Sunday, November 27 at 6:30 p.m. The storylines and coincidences keep piling up.