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Double-Double: Indiana wins regular-season, tournament titles in back-to-back years

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A.J. Palazzolo screamed from the top of his lungs, “we weren’t supposed to win anything this year.”

Thomas Warr yelled, “I sure do love winning.”

Indiana players congregated around the midfield logo at Ludwig Field in College Park, Maryland nearly 45 hours after dispatching of the host Terrapins and just five minutes after Josh Penn’s penalty kick gave IU the Big Ten Tournament title over Michigan.

AJ Palazzolo and Joe Schmidt celebrate after Indiana wins back-to-back Big Ten tournament championships. (Jared Rigdon/HN)

“It feels really good to do it with this group,” Palazzolo said. “We’re a family. It’s hard to describe how this feels, but it really feels great.”

Spencer Glass was the first one to raise the trophy. His fellow captain Jack Maher right by his side. 

The celebration was everything you would’ve expected and more. Because this one was different.

***

After 104 minutes of soccer Friday night and 110 minutes on Sunday, IU had given just about everything they had in College Park.

Palazzolo played all of Sunday with a white bandage wrapped around his head, his black eye nearly swollen shut after taking head-to-head contact in a collision against Maryland.

Joris Ahlinvi could barely run anymore, another knock late in the match limiting him in what was already an injury-plagued season. 

But here came IU from the huddle, one last-ditch effort for a chance at the Big Ten Double. 

The only fitting way the Big Ten Tournament title would be settled this season was with one thing: penalty kicks. 

“We’re not pushing for overtime or PK’s,” Warr said. “We were out there pushing to win it the whole time. It is what we expected it to be. It was hard fought by both teams. Even around the group when it came to PK’s, we had this feeling of confidence that we were going to win it.”

Roman Celentano stopped the first. Joe Schmidt answered. 

Michigan scored and then it was Palazzolo, calm and collected.

Again Michigan, but Warr to answer.

Then Celentano once again, diving to his left to stop Kevin Buca. 

But on this day, not just one person could be the hero. Maher blocked, answered by a Michigan score. 

All of that set up the crowning moment of the season and the prayer answered by the freshman Penn.

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From the moment it left his foot, everyone knew it was in. Indiana had won the Big Ten Double.

The first person mobbed in the post-game celebration: Roman Celenano.

This wasn’t supposed to be a moment that Celentano was in. He didn’t start a single match until Oct. 1 against Northwestern. But he’s been a natural from the start.

Two years ago, Trey Muse made huge penalty kick saves against Michigan State to send IU to the College Cup.

Last year, it was Sean Caulfield with an outstanding effort against Maryland in PK’s to send IU to the Big Ten Tournament final.

Sunday, it was Celentano. The freshman. The guy who saved IU so many times. He stopped the first Michigan kick to give IU an immediate advantage. Then the fourth kick to give IU the chance to win it. 

After Penn’s fifth-round kick went in, Celentano found himself at the bottom of the dogpile, a plethora of emotions overcoming him. 

“Roman stepped in and has been with this team seamlessly,” Warr said. “Looking back, it seems like goalkeepers are born to make penalty saves at IU. Huge to have him back there.”

The celebration lasted for more than half an hour. The players so antsy for the trophy were asked to back away from it because they kept touching it. 

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Even after losing 10 starters from last year’s team, after playing its first five matches of the season into overtime and after getting obliterated 3-0 by Maryland on the same field less than a month ago, here was IU.

Tired and bruised, IU came to the center of the pitch for photos and to collect the trophy all with one thing in the back of their minds. 

Head coach Todd Yeagley wrote three goals on the board the first day of IU practice this season. IU’s won the Big Ten regular-season title and now the Big Ten Tournament title.

But they’re not done yet.

Because there’s still a third box to check.

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