SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As the French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Indiana men’s soccer’s whirlwind season started and ended in the same place — Alumni Stadium in South Bend against Notre Dame.
The two played to a 1-1 draw in the season opener on Aug. 24. Indiana was ranked No. 2 in the preseason poll, Notre Dame was unranked. The match was played in sweltering heat.
Exactly 100 days later, the two tussled again in the Elite Eight. This time, Notre Dame was the school with the No. 2 next to its name, Indiana was without a number. The weather was the polar opposite. Forty degrees and a light drizzle — some would say football weather.
This time, the team that was seeded came out on top. Notre Dame ended Indiana’s season Saturday night in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, 1-1 (5-4 PKs).
The same quote could be used for the fashion Indiana lost. For the fifth straight year, Indiana lost in the NCAA Tournament in either golden goal or penalties. The past two seasons have ended in penalty kicks. In 2022, it was a 7-6 loss in the shootout after a 2-2 draw. In 2023, it was a 5-4 loss in the shootout after a 1-1 draw.
The common denominator in both was a Patrick McDonald top-class goal to level the match at one, bringing the traveling IU crowd to its feet. Last year’s was in the first half, this year was just after the hour mark, arguably even better than the one against Syracuse.
As previously mentioned, the past five seasons have all ended in heartbreak:
Dec. 1, 2019
Loss at home to No. 22 UC Santa Barbara 1-0 in 2OT in the Sweet 16. A golden goal in the 102nd minute on a foggy afternoon ended Indiana’s season.
May 17, 2021
The 2020 season was pushed back to the spring because of COVID-19. An NCAA Tournament played in a bubble in North Carolina was ended by a national championship-winning goal by Marshall in the 98th minute. It was the Thundering Herd’s first national championship. That match also finished 1-0 in OT.
Nov. 27, 2021
Just over six months after the Marshall loss, Indiana falls to No. 2 Washington 3-2 in overtime on a cold afternoon in Seattle. After leading twice and returning the majority of the team that lost in the spring, a 96th-minute game-winner by Dylan Teves, his third of the match, sent the Hoosiers packing.
Dec. 12, 2022
The streak of losing in overtime matches ends but the penalty shootout heartbreaks begin. Indiana nearly thought it had won in the seventh round when Levonte Johnson’s penalty hit the crossbar. But, instead of bouncing out, it went over the goal line. In the round after, Indiana missed and the Orange scored, leading to Syracuse’s first national championship.
And now you can add Dec. 2, 2023 to that list.
The quest for the ninth star continues and the drought reaches 11 seasons, a program-long.
An incredible second-half turnaround will surely be how this 2023 Indiana team will be remembered. But, it feels almost fitting that the team would bow out while dominating in the shot department and other statistics, something it has done in nearly all 24 matches this season. On Saturday, Indiana outshot Notre Dame 25-11 and had 10 corners to the Fighting Irish’s one.