The Santa Clara Broncos and Indiana Hoosiers emerged as the big winners on the longest day of semifinals competition in NCAA soccer history.
Not only did both games go into overtime tonight for the first time ever, but each contest took four extra 15-minute periods to be settled, making them the two longest semifinals ever in the final four. Santa Clara beat Connecticut, 2-1, in the first game, and defending champion Indiana blew a two-goal lead before pulling out a 3-2 victory over UCLA. The winners will meet in the final Sunday.
By the time the UCLA-Indiana game ended, players for both teams were cramping up, sitting down on the field during stoppages and were unable to generate any sustained momentum. The two games, which took more than seven hours combined to complete, also took a toll in the stands at Ericsson Stadium, where only about 5,000 fans remained from an original announced crowd of 13,231.
Shawn Percell scored both goals for the Broncos, who went into overtime for the sixth time in seven matches, including three of their four in the NCAA tournament. Santa Clara (16-3-3) earned its first trip to the championship game since 1991. The Hoosiers (20-3), who had not allowed a goal in three NCAA tournament games, made up for their second-half letdown against UCLA (19-3) with an 18-yard blast by Ryan Mack into the lower left corner in the 142nd minute.
The Santa Clara-Connecticut game was the longest semifinal in tournament history, a match that lasted 138 minutes 50 seconds, but a few hours later, the record fell. The second game took 141:24.
"The longer the game went on, the more I felt we took it over," Santa Clara Coach Mitch Murray said. Santa Clara contained the Huskies' pressing, aggressive style, limiting Connecticut (19-5) to just one shot on goal in the first half and four in the entire match.
"We didn't sit back and play to take it to penalty kicks," said Murray, whose team outshot the Huskies 20-13 and forced Connecticut's Matt Chavlovich to make eight saves. "We were pushing hard the whole game."
Percell's seventh goal of the year and his fourth of the tournament was his first game-winner of the season, and it ended Connecticut's 13-game winning streak.
Indiana built a 2-0 lead when freshman Pat Noonan shoved a short roller past Nick Rimando in the 55th minute and Yuri Lavrinenko flipped in a feed from Aleksey Korol 20 minutes later.