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Indiana senior forward Ryan Wittenbrink battles for the ball in Indiana's 1-1 draw with Maryland on Oct. 30. (HN photo/Eden Snower)
Indiana senior forward Ryan Wittenbrink battles for the ball in Indiana's 1-1 draw with Maryland on Oct. 30. (HN photo/Eden Snower)

‘A quiet locker room’: Maryland snatches conference title from Indiana, equalizes in closing minutes of 1-1 draw

Indiana led for 62 minutes, until Maryland’s Stefan Copetti tallied the equalizer

Indiana defender Nyk Sessock stood at the edge of the center circle with his hands on his hips, scanning the cleared pitch. Ryan Wittenbrink walked over, took off his jersey, and the two teammates briefly talked. 

Herbert Endeley strolled toward them, hugged Sessock, and the trio disappeared into the locker room. They were the final Indiana players to leave the field — three upperclassmen honored on Sunday's Senior Day. 

In the distance, Maryland players donning their gold jerseys stood on the gravel track adjacent to the field, posing for pictures. The team had just claimed sole possession of the Big Ten regular season title. 

During the match’s final three minutes, Maryland's Stefan Copetti maneuvered to create an opening at the back post, heading a goal past Indiana's frozen goalkeeper JT Harms — the equalizer in a 1-1 draw. 

Harms had been perfect up to that point, compiling three saves and warding off other attacks. The Indiana keeper had even saved Copetti's point-blank shot to begin the second half. 

"It was very kind of routine, but dangerous moments that (Harms) either held his line and let our guys make the play, or he came out and made plays," Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said postmatch. "It was a solid, good performance for JT." 

Yet, when Copetti received another chance, only his second shot of the match, the junior didn't miss. Maryland players raced toward the corner flag, piling on top of one another. They must have known that Copetti's goal at the death was enough to bring them the title. 

Around the conference, Wisconsin favorably had already beaten second-place Ohio State 3-2, denying the Buckeyes of gaining any points. That left the door open for Indiana to control its destiny. The Hoosiers had to beat first-place Maryland to share the conference trophy with the Terrapins. Instead, only one team's bench sprinted onto the field upon hearing the final whistle. The one-point draw left Indiana three points shy in the standings. 

"Quiet. It's a quiet locker room," Yeagley said. "They knew what was on the line. So yeah, they're disappointed." 

At the break, Indiana held a 1-0 lead, courtesy of Ryan Wittenbrink's free-kick slotted into the top left of the net. If Indiana were to maintain that lead, it would have claimed its 18th Big Ten regular season title — the goal coming from the player who wears that same number. 

"We said let's get after it in the second half," Yeagley said. "And you can see that. It wasn't like, let's sit back for another 45 (minutes), no. I felt we did a good job of that. We were able to get behind them in the first half (and the) second half as well. So we talked about that. And staying clicked on all small details." 

Yeagley said in the locker room Indiana players knew the halftime score of the Wisconsin-Ohio State match, which the Badgers were winning 2-0 at the time. Learning the team was closer to achieving the title formed excitement.

Yet, Indiana only created two shots in the second half, one of which was on target. In comparison, Maryland generated seven shots in the second half, two on target. Which two? Yup, Copetti's saved shot, and later, the equalizer. 

Following the draw, Indiana finishes fourth in the regular season standings. Michigan State's loss during the chaotic Sunday slate of matches means Indiana will host Penn State Friday in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Sure, The Hoosiers were minutes away from hoisting the trophy, yet at least experiencing a playoff atmosphere has perks. 

"Both teams wanted it really bad," Yeagley said. "And that's a good thing. This had (a) postseason feel, which is good any time you get that before it... I like the way we competed for sure."

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