In last year’s National Championship game, Indiana winger Griffin Dorsey was the last Hoosier to touch the ball.
“I’ve watched that goal probably 100 times,” Indiana midfielder Francesco Moore said.
In the 103rd minute of the match, Stanford forward Corey Baird cut into the box from the right side and sent in a low cross. Dorsey, in good defensive position, intercepted the cross and looked up.
Dorsey looked up attempting to start the counter attack, and moments later, Stanford forward Sam Werner stole the ball. He stole the ball, looked up, and ended the season.
“It was tough obviously,” Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said. “You know it’s a good learning lesson for a young player. Certainly, that stage is tough, but you know, we never actually talked about the situation because we wouldn’t be there without him. He knew that it was a tactical decision that he’s gotta do better with. They got a little fortunate bounce. Kid hit a great shot and there it is.”
A year later, Dorsey is different player. Composed, experienced, and seemingly unaffected.
“Took a little bit bigger of a toll on me than I think for a few others for the mistake I made in the finals, but that’s just something you’ve gotta move on as a player,” Dorsey said. “It happens to everybody.”
Dorsey’s impervious mentality is not only admirable, but important. This weekend, Dorsey faces an opportunity at redemption, and yet that’s not on his mind. All that has truly appeared to matter to him all season long has been the success of the team around him. It’s an attitude that leaves him and his teammates solely focused on the task at hand at this year’s college cup, but it’s also a mindset that elicits intrigue.
After last year’s loss, Dorsey not only had to face his own disappointment, but also the qualms of those he has never even met before.
“You know I got a comment from a kid who’s probably 12 or 13-years old after that happened and it was like ‘How does it feel to lose the national championship’ and you know I had a couple of the buddies back me up on it and it was just like…I don’t know,” Dorsey said. “I never really looked into it much. I kinda just moved on. What ya gonna do?”
What Dorsey did, was look ahead. A difficult ask that even took some of his teammates a long time to appreciate.
“You’re still thinking, geez man, I was playing in the most intense game you could ever play in in college soccer,” Moore said. “So many people watching. On the biggest stage. And you kinda just sit there and think, what if?”
It hurts to lose. It hurts because of the work you put in and it hurts because of the success that slips away. What also hurts is the unique dynamic of blame that surrounds sports.
Dorsey had the last touch, but he didn’t have the only touch. If Indiana scores in regulation, that game never goes to overtime. If the ball had been cleared out earlier, Dorsey never faces that moment. If Dorsey never tracked back defensively, then Stanford most likely wins anyway. And that’s where the need to toss around blame becomes complicated.
FINAL | Indiana 2, Northwestern 1
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) September 27, 2018
“Any time there is a goal scored on you, you think what could I have done better?,” Moore said. “I mean I just keeping going through that play, you know, what could I have done better? What could I have done better?”
Ultimately, Dorsey is a different player from the one in last year’s college cup. Now a sophomore, Dorsey has learned from his past experiences on a team fueled by lessons from the past.
“I think mainly what I learned last year was don’t take anything for granted,” Dorsey said. “I think it was my freshman year and I hadn’t seen anything. I hadn’t really experienced everything in college and I think I took it a little bit for granted that we made it to the college cup. I mean, this year is definitely, definitely different.”
What’s different is a player that has become a pivotal cog in the offensive attack of one of the best teams in the nation. Indiana’s sophomore winger has five goals and five assists on the season and a United Soccer Coaches 2nd Team All-American honor to his name. All fueled by his chemistry with sophomore forward Justin Rennicks.
“We’ve always had a little connection on the field,” Rennicks said. “He’s a tough kid. He’s not going to let that hurt him in any way…It doesn’t matter anymore. Obviously, we’ve got bigger opportunities ahead of us…He’s just going to play better soccer. I’ve already seen it. He’s just going to play the soccer that he always plays.”
Rennicks and Dorsey’s connection goes well beyond Indiana. The two have played together as a part of the United States Men’s National Team Youth Academy before even coming to campus, and the two both left the team during the Big Ten Tournament to compete in the U-20 Concacaf Championships. Another experience that provided a lesson similar to the one learned a year ago.
“It was unbelievable,” Dorsey said. “I mean wearing the crest is something that you don’t take for granted. I think that was mainly what I got from it. Never take it for granted no matter when you’re stepping on the field wearing the jersey.”
We are all fueled by our experiences. When we struggle, some of us choose to forget the pain behind us. Others embrace it. Heading into the college cup, Indiana fans can find confidence in the fact that Dorsey embraced it. He embraced it, learned to never take anything for granted, and then put it behind him. Now he takes that newfound outlook to Santa Barbara.
“I’d say it provides a little extra motivation,” Dorsey said. “I mean, honestly, the motivation for everyone is still there. We just want to win. That’s all we want to do. That’s all we ever wanted to do. Just go out there and win. I think this year the team is more ready than I think we were last year. I think we have a little bit more maturity. We’re a little smarter. And I’m excited.”