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‘It Was Meant To Be’: Penn State Men’s Soccer Overcomes Indiana ‘Burden’ In Big Ten Final

For the first time in his four years at Penn State, men’s soccer head coach Jeff Cook won the Big Ten Tournament title, defeating Indiana 3-0 on Sunday to clinch the conference double.

It was a long time coming for the Nittany Lions’ head coach. Cook inherited a low-end Nittany Lions group in 2018 and brought the squad near the Big Ten summit very quickly thanks to a second-place finish in the 2019 regular season.

Fast forward to spring 2021, and a COVID-19-altered spring season found Penn State once again among the elites of the conference, retaining the No. 2 seed from the season and barely falling short of Indiana in the Big Ten Championship game on penalty kicks.

This year, the group made another leap toward the summit by capturing the Big Ten regular-season title, but Todd Yeagley’s Hoosiers remained the bogeymen for Cook and Penn State. Up until Sunday’s championship, Cook had a 0-3-1 record against Indiana — and the draw was the aforementioned shootout failure.

Things changed this time, though.

Penn State got to host the newest addition of what is surely becoming one of the nation’s best rivalries in men’s soccer after a stellar 6-2 season (of course, one of those losses was to the Hoosiers last month).

The Nittany Lions took the lead through a red-hot Seth Kuhn before Tyger Evans and Pierre Reedy added second-half insurance goals to seal the deal.

The Nittany Lions have had relatively linear progression, Big Ten-wise, under Cook. His first year was a disappointing yet realistic one, followed by an exit at the semifinal stage of the conference tournament in 2019.

Last season, when the Nittany Lions beat Michigan to advance to the final, we wrote that they had earned a “statement win,” and that Cook had his men firmly as the second-most prominent team in the conference.

Now, it appears as if they have reached the summit.

“It’s an unbelievable team and an incredible program. Their tradition and success speak for themselves,” Cook said. “I’m really proud of what we did to win the regular season and now, winning the Big Ten Tournament.”

Like many coaches, Cook will turn toward the next game by the time the sun rises on Monday. However, he noted the meaning of beating the perennial giant and current national runner-up.

“We recognize that the Big Ten for men’s soccer is among the nation’s leaders, and Indiana has been at the forefront of that,” Cook said. “To be able to get over the burden mentally of [finally] winning that game, I hope it will be significant not only today but into the future.”

During Cook’s tenure, one of the biggest cornerstones of the program has been captain Pierre Reedy. The Kutztown native is now in his sixth season with the Nittany Lions after suffering an injury in the first match of his sophomore campaign in 2017 and taking the following year off as well.

The win meant a lot to Reedy. Even though hes\’s the longest-serving veteran on the team, including Cook, this was also his first victory over the Hoosiers.

“We’ve got a great group of guys, and every game we lock up. We got the job done, finally, today,” Reedy said.

“I was just telling the guys it was meant to be,” he continued. “Six years, we lost at their place last year [in the Big Ten Championship], and this year we were due. The guys balled out, I’m really proud of them.”

Penn State isn’t done yet, and the NCAA Selection Show will help decide the Nittany Lions’ fate. While their tournament hopes were never put in too much doubt before securing the Big Ten title, the Nittany Lions will have an automatic bid as conference champion.

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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

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