Penn State Men’s Soccer Eyes Chance To Finally Knock Off Indiana

Fresh off a regular-season-winning campaign, Penn State men’s soccer is back to the Big Ten Tournament championship game for the second season in a row.

Jeff Cook’s Nittany Lions are on a hot streak, although the final in-conference test could not be more of a classic Big Ten battle with Todd Yeagley’s Indiana Hoosiers coming to town.

Sunday’s showdown will be yet another chance for Penn State to get over the mountain-sized hump created by the Hoosiers, a team that won the double (regular season and tournament titles) from 2018 to last spring. In Cook’s tenure in State College, which began in that 2018 season, Penn State has gone 0-3-1 against the Hoosiers, including a heartbreaking penalty shootout loss in last spring’s Big Ten title game.

At long last, this may finally be the chance for the Nittany Lions to get past Indiana, a team that labored past upstarts Northwestern on Wednesday, while early goals from Seth Kuhn and Andrew Privett sealed Penn State’s passage to the final over Michigan with few nerves.

Looking ahead, Cook knows it will be a tough rematch with the Hoosiers, who are coming off a national runner-up campaign last spring.

One of the many stars for Indiana is goalkeeper Roman Celentano, who has been a terror for Penn State over the past few years. His highlight reel continued on Wednesday when he (literally) single-handedly kept the Hoosiers from conceding against Northwestern.

Cook’s plan is to hit Celentano often and with precision chances.

“What we talk about is attacking the penalty area with good numbers. It’s about getting good service into dangerous areas and hitting those areas with good runs,” Cook said. “Roman is a very good goalkeeper, but you just have to get the frequency up.”

The fourth-year head coach also noted that Penn State needs to do better in holding onto possession, therefore improving the number of chances forwards Peter Mangione, Danny Bloyou, and Liam Butts will get.

“I think one of the key areas for us will be ball retention. When we did that against Michigan [in the semifinal]. We were really dangerous,” Cook said. “When we didn’t use the ball well, and sometimes I thought our decision making was a little inconsistent, it leads to a counterattack for the opponent,” Cook said.

Typically, this budding rivalry has been psychologically tipped in favor of Bloomington — the recent head-to-head record says it all. However, this time around, the Nittany Lions have home-field advantage and a swagger about them.

With all the talk about how tough it will be to break down Celentano and the Hoosiers, Cook noted that it won’t be easy for Indiana to find a way past a Penn State defense that hasn’t conceded a goal in roughly 300 minutes.

You can never play a perfect game, but they will have a tough time breaking us down too,” Cook said.

Indiana has many weapons in its attack, and Yeagley likes to push his outside backs forward, a common thread among modern tactics. The aerial presence of center-back Brandon Hackenberg will be key for the Nittany Lions, as well as the athleticism of goalkeeper Kris Shakes.

“Since I’ve been here, they’ve been a very dangerous crossing and finishing team. They don’t delay, they don’t mess around. They get the ball in the box, and they have good guys running hard,” Cook said. “People could misrepresent it as luck or good fortune, but they find a way to make plays. And they’ve done that more often than not.”

Both teams will have a lot to prove as they meet for the second consecutive year at the end of the Big Ten road. Penn State has its chance to try and knock Indiana off its very impressive perch, while the Hoosiers can once again prove that they have no rival when it comes to the Big Ten.

Kickoff is set for noon on Sunday on the Big Ten Network.

Your ad blocker is on.

Please choose an option below.

Sign up for our e-mail newsletter:
Support quality journalism:
Purchase a Subscription!

About the Author

Otis Lyons

Otis is a sophomore majoring in print journalism and is one of Onward State's associate editors. He lives just north of San Francisco, and is a diehard San Jose Earthquakes fan. Feel free to send over your soccer hot takes to his twitter @otisnlyons1 and instagram @otislyons

News & Notes From James Franklin’s Lift For Life Media Availability

From discussing the White Out to the wide receiver corps, here’s what we learned from Franklin’s latest press conference.

Penn State Names Corey Phelps Dean Of Smeal College Of Business

Phelps came from leading Oklahoma’s Michael F. Price College of Business.

Report: Penn State Hoops To Host Penn On December 29

The matchup is one of several reported or announced games for the Nittany Lions in the 2024-25 season.