FORT WAYNE – The basketball state hasn’t been treated kindly recently by basketball.
No Indiana men’s college team made it to the NCAA tournament this season. Notre Dame was routed in the women’s championship game by archrival Connecticut. And the Indiana Pacers are struggling with the NBA playoffs around the corner and the assumed showdown with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals in doubt.
But while the state’s hoops dreams turned into nightmares, college men’s soccer has thrived with Indiana and Notre Dame capturing the last two NCAA titles.
The Hoosiers and Irish will give Fort Wayne an up-close look at how good soccer is in Indiana when they play at 2 p.m. today at the Fort Wayne Sport Club as part of the Shindigz National Soccer Festival.
A lot of that started with (former IU coach) Jerry Yeagley. Jerry did a phenomenal job there, Notre Dame coach Bobby Clark said of the state’s soccer success. The only other final I played in, we lost to Indiana when I was at Stanford. The year before that game, we were No. 2 in the country and they were No. 1. We played on Halloween at Stanford, we lost that night, I think it was 2-1.
It is amazing. It’s great for us. When I came here, there was a team of Indiana’s caliber just down the road. It was a good yardstick to gage yourself against every year. I’m a strong admirer of their program.
Notre Dame has a long way to go to catch up to IU’s success after the Irish won their first men’s championship with a 2-1 win over Maryland on Dec. 15.
The Hoosiers have won eight titles, with the latest coming in 2012. IU has reached the NCAA tournament in each of the last 27 seasons and owns the Division I record of College Cup appearances with 18.
We’ve been a consistent, dominant program with the college soccer scene. People have seen that, said Hoosiers coach Todd Yeagley, who was a four-time All-American when he played at IU and led the team to its latest title. It’s nice to see Notre Dame over the last 10, 15 years become a consistent, regular top-20 program. Bobby does a really nice job. It’s really healthy for the state.
The reality is we have two powerful soccer programs in the state of Indiana. It’s a really neat thing. It puts a lot of exposure to our state in helping young players that aspire to play at the highest level they can see really good soccer and stay close to home if that opportunity comes. It is good on all fronts.
IU’s and Notre Dame’s soccer strength should make for a good match today in Fort Wayne, which also was the home for a champion-vs.-champion match when the Hoosiers played 2011 champion North Carolina on Aug. 25 at Hefner Fields with the Tar Heels winning 1-0.
The heightened storyline and the fans and the support replicate what we want in the fall, because those components are there, Yeagley said. It gives that new, young player a really nice platform to kind of feel what you feel come tournament time and regular season when there are big games on the line. That pressure and expectation is part of what you have to manage as an athlete here at Indiana. That’s the positive for us in these type of games.