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Indiana senior defender Brett Bebej handles the ball during Indiana's loss to Kentucky on Oct. 22. (HN photo/Daniel Rodriguez)
Indiana senior defender Brett Bebej handles the ball during Indiana's loss to Kentucky on Oct. 22. (HN photo/Daniel Rodriguez)

‘One of the greatest moments of my career’: Brett Bebej’s back-post header punches Indiana’s ticket to Elite Eight

Bebej’s third goal of the season served as the decisive score in Sunday night’s Round of 16 match

Two Indiana fans standing atop the bleachers at Bill Armstrong Stadium held their crimson and gray scarfs above their heads in victory.

Across the pitch, rows of students celebrated behind the sideline boards that read "Hoosier Army." One large Indiana flag wafted away red and white smoke.

The entire Indiana team huddled together near the center of the field, shouted at one another, and mobbed their head coach, Todd Yeagley.

The pep band's fanfare escorted them off the field toward the locker room. Soon, they were tucked behind the student section that endured 90 minutes of brisk postseason soccer weather. Their reward: witnessing, and perhaps aiding in, No. 13-seeded Indiana's 1-0 victory over Marshall Sunday night to advance to the Elite Eight.

"Students and the town came out tonight," Yeagley said post match. "The night felt like it wasn't as packed as it was in 2017-18. But man, you could feel the energy of the crowd, feeling our team, and it was great. So I thank the fans and I'm just really proud of this team."

Indiana returns to the Elite Eight for, well, the first time in two seasons, but beat Marshall in revenge fashion. Marshall denied the Hoosiers their ninth championship in the 2020-21 national championship match. (Due to COVID-19, the 2020 fall season was held in spring 2021).

Members from the Indiana team that started the championship match — and suffered the heartbreaking overtime loss — remain on the current roster: Herbert Endeley, Maouloune Goumballe, Joey Maher, Daniel Munie, Nyk Sessock, and Brett Bebej.

Bebej, among others on that list, stood on the field two springs ago when Marshall scored the overtime golden goal to secure its first-ever championship. In fact, Bebej had a precise angle of Marshall's back-post winner.

Where did Bebej score Indiana's lone score Sunday evening? Yup, back-post. But if you were tracing Ryan Wittenbrink's corner kick, Bebej wasn't in the immediate area. Instead, the senior flew into the six-yard box and powerfully buried the header into the net.

"That was one of the greatest moments of my career, so I'm at a loss for words," Bebej said post match. "Coach usually puts me back around the back of the box. So anything I got, I saw it in there and I just attacked it. It was free. So, got lucky and I put it away."

The goal two minutes into the second half resulted from Indiana's 11th corner of the night. That's right, entering halftime, Indiana maintained a 10-0 corner kick advantage. Yet, most didn't form dangerous chances. Some even flew right into Marshall's defenders.

You may think Yeagley implemented these restart changes at halftime. Yet, the players held the clipboard and pen.

"The guys took ownership," Yeagley said. "They actually made an adjustment at half with us and said, 'Hey, why don't we look for this?' and we changed our runs. That's when you love it. When the guys are solving things at halftime and coming to us and say, coach, can we switch this up? I was like, absolutely, you're out there. You see exactly what you see and we can adapt."

Indiana senior defender Brett Bebej talks to a teammate during Indiana's draw with Maryland on Oct. 30. (HN photo/Eden Snower)

On defense, Indiana held off a Marshall team that didn't seem to tire. The Thundering Herd only substituted one player into the match. Marshall's Milo Yosef came close to scoring on a pair of rocketed shots that sailed over the crossbar. None of the three redshirt senior's second-half strikes connected.

"They have some really, really good attackers and they kind of have a nonstop engine to be honest with you," Indiana defender Joey Maher said post match. "They're just ready for the next attack and I do credit them. They're really good players."

For Indiana’s backline to produce back-to-back shutouts one week apart must enhance confidence. They are Elite Eight bound, and defended their home turf in the team's final home match of the year. Due to seeding, Indiana will play No. 12-seeded UNC Greensboro on the road in the next round. The College Cup, or Final Four, will be held in North Carolina.

"Just for the seniors, this is for them," Maher said. "This is for them. Sweet 16 (we) almost maxed out here and just being able to play with guys like Munie, Nyk (Sessock) and Witt(enbrink); the list goes on and on. Just being able to do it with them. It was a really, really cool moment."

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