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'It finally came:' Jeremiah Gutjahr gets his moment in Indiana soccer's Big Ten Tournament title

WESTFIELD, Ind. -- It has been a long time coming for Jeremiah Gutjahr.

After tearing his ACL in September of 2017, Gutjahr was forced to miss the rest of last season. He didn’t get the opportunity to be on the field for any of IU’s run to the College Cup. Gutjahr was with the team throughout, but his presence on the field was missed.

Now with the help of Gutjahr in the midfield, the Hoosiers are Big Ten Tournament champions for the first time since 2013 after a 3-0 win over the Michigan Wolverines. The senior midfielder even scored his first goal of the season to put Indiana up 2-0. It was his first goal since October 15, 2016.

“Jeremiah’s first goal, it couldn’t have been a bigger goal in a bigger moment,” IU head coach Todd Yeagley said. “Really pleased for Jeremiah who personally wasn’t able to enjoy the on the field journey last year. Now him playing such a big role for this year’s team on the field, I’m really happy for him.”

Gutjahr has played a lot of roles for the Hoosiers at times in 2018. Sometimes he tasked as being the ‘8’ in the midfield, sometimes he’s the holding midfielder in front of the back line, and at other times is tasked with playing in IU’s attack. In other words, he’s all over the pitch. On Sunday, that was the case again.

There is no understating how important Gutjahr is to the Hoosiers. The double meaning of this 2018 season is also important to keep in perspective. For one, this is his last ride as a senior. For another, it’s a comeback story for the Bloomington native.

“It’s a huge game, so it’s always exciting when you’re able to get a goal like that,” Gutjahr said. “It’s been a constant joke of mine and the coaching staff and the players. It’s gonna come, it’s gonna come. I haven’t scored this year, so it was a mindset of just keep doing your thing and it will come, and it finally came.”

No other performance in 2018 may have embodied Indiana’s season more than Sunday’s victory. Indiana’s defense held strong throughout the 90 minutes against a potent Michigan side, posting another clean sheet. Andrew Gutman was named defensive player of the Big Ten Tournament while center backs Timmy Mehl and Jack Maher turned in stellar performances.

The Hoosiers also put three goals in the back of the net, the sixth time they’ve scored three or more goals in a match this season.

Indiana’s first goal came early on in the seventh minute when Cory Thomas, the offensive player of the tournament, tapped in a rebound. The Hoosiers never looked back from there, but weren’t done yet as Gutjahr and Spencer Glass also joined the scoresheet in the second half.

“We said it to start the game, ‘our defending starts our attack,’” Yeagley said. “I thought we took away Michigan’s strengths and kept them at bay. They’re going to get a couple of chances because they’re a really quality side, and they did, we were fortunate on a couple and made a couple of plays.”

Now Indiana awaits Selection Monday. The Hoosiers will no doubt have a top four seed, and might even have a case for the top overall seed. Nonetheless, the Hoosiers will be at home as long they keep winning.

But whether it’s Thomas, Gutjahr or Glass scoring the goals, it doesn’t matter for the Hoosiers. It’s sometimes even a surprise for Yeagley. As long as they keep doing what has gotten them to this point, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be successful.

“Every game I’m not quite sure who’s going to do it because there are so many guys capable of doing it,” Yeagley said.

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