HOOVER, Ala. — One by one, Georgetown men's soccer players crumbled to the ground when the clock struck zero. The Hoyas' unexpected run to the College Cup final finally hit a wall Sunday.
Indiana controlled most of the championship game in a 1-0 victory for the Hoosiers' eighth national championship but their first since 2004.
Nikita Kotlov scored in the 64th minute off a header when Georgetown goalkeeper Tomas Gomez vacated the net to try to play a cross. That's all the scoring needed for the Hoosiers, who out-shot Georgetown 16-7.
And yet Georgetown still had one last chance. With one minute remaining, the Hoyas defender Tommy Muller flicked a header off the crossbar.
"By the time I turned around, I saw it kind of dropping and I thought it was going in and then it hit the post," Muller said. "I was kind of trying to get anything on it and it ended up going the right way, but not good enough."
The play was a rare time a ball got past Indiana goalkeeper Luis Soffner, who was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the College Cup. Georgetown forward Steve Neumann was voted the Most Outstanding Offensive Player, although he took only one shot Sunday after his hat trick in Friday's semifinal against Maryland.
"In the second half, the ball didn't come into the box often, but when it hit the crossbar, I was so happy," Soffner said. "Sometimes it takes a little luck, and we deserved it at that moment."
Two days after playing 110 minutes in an up-tempo semifinal win, Georgetown looked weary. The Hoosiers (16-5-3) pressured the Hoyas (19-4-3) in a way Maryland never did and dictated a fast tempo against tired legs.
"Tactics aside, they kind of won the midfield," Georgetown coach Brian Wiese said. "They were very good from an energy point of view. We didn't have the legs we normally had. It's tough when you do a Friday-Sunday format and have these types of games. With the pressure of it as well, it's hard to get those legs turned over."
The game's only goal came midway through the second half. Indiana midfielder Patrick Doody sent a cross into the box that presented the always-difficult question for a goalie: Stay back on the line, or attempt to make a play on the ball?
Gomez, who won the semifinal by stopping Maryland's last penalty kick, eventually went for the ball and got caught without a way to reach it. Forward Eriq Zavaleta headed the ball to Kotlov, who easily scored from 3 yards out.
"The ball drifted in the air for quite a while, and their keeper was hesitant when it went into no-man's land," Zavaleta said. "I was in a tough angle to finish it, but I saw Nikita run into the box, so my goal was to get the ball in and give him a chance to get it in the net."
Said Wiese: "It's hard on Tomas because I think he'll take a lot of responsibility for that. It's a ball that if you're the goalkeeper and you come for it, you've got to take it."
Right before the goal, Georgetown was just starting to get some pressure on Indiana after a lackluster first half.
"We got our butts kicked in the first half," Georgetown midfielder Ian Christianson said, "and we just kept plugging away with the same mentality."
Georgetown fell one win short of winning only its third national championship in any sport. The Hoyas won the 1984 NCAA men's basketball tournament and captured the 2011 women's cross country national title.
"If you had told me my freshman year we would have been playing for the national championship, I would have laughed in your face," said Christianson, one of five seniors.
Wiese said he was inspired to see how his team galvanized the Georgetown community.
"I told the players in the locker room that we have the second-place trophy, which today is one of the sourest things you can look at," Wiese said. "But I know give it some time, it's going to be something that we really treasure."