When Philadelphia native Nyk Sessock decided to transfer to Indiana last winter, he did so with an eye on playing for a program that would help him continue his development for the next level and give him a chance to be playing on the final weekend of the college season.
What he didn’t realize at the time was that the final weekend wouldn’t be until mid-May 2021 and that his former team would be the one standing in the way of a 16th trip for the Hoosiers to the College Cup final.
“To know that we’ll be playing in the last game this season, no matter what the result, is a really good feeling,” Sessock said in a phone interview on Saturday, a day after the Hoosiers beat Pitt 1-0 to advance to the final. “It’s something that every team wants and we get to feel that.”
Pitt was on the front foot for much of the night in Friday’s semifinal, but it was a goal in the 79th minute from Herbert Endeley that broke a scoreless game in Indiana’s favor. Sessock, who started and went the full 90 minutes at right back, passed the ball off to his soon-to-be Ocean City Nor’easters teammate on the right flank and Endeley did the rest.
“Once I got the ball, I knew if I can get Herb isolated here, I’m giving him that ball,” Sessock said. “Herb’s probably one of our most effective one v one attackers, and he just makes things happen. Once he split those two defenders and broke through it was on.”
Soccer being the cruel game it can be, Endeley’s smash and grab winner set off a celebration in the small section of Hoosiers support behind the bench at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. but there was still work to do down the other end for Sessock and his teammates.
“Pitt’s an extremely talented team, they move the ball incredibly well,” Sessock said. “It’s probably the best team we’ve played all year but we were just disciplined, followed the plan and got the job done.”
The day after the match, Sessock was understandably looking forward more to tonight’s opponent than he was thinking about the school where he spent his first two years of college after graduating from YSC Academy in 2018. He did admit that it was important for him personally to beat his former team but for him the focus remains the group he’s been with through a year of Covid-19 protocols and a canceled fall season.
“It definitely helped me a lot getting to know the group a lot better just training in the fall,” Sessock said. “It’s been an interesting year, but still a great one for sure.”
Sessock has a chance tonight to continue a trend of College Cup success for graduates of YSC Academy, the independent school most members of the Philadelphia Union Academy attend.
Tomas Romero, a 2019 grad, won a national title with Georgetown in the last College Cup final in December 2019 and 2015 grad Sebastian Elney won a title with Maryland in 2018. Andrew Aprahamian, a Union Academy grad who went to Malvern Prep, was a redshirt freshman when Stanford won the title in 2017.
“I just want to continue that trend,” said Sessock, who played for Vereinigung Erzgebirge, Ukrainian Nationals and FC Delco before joining the Union Academy’s U13 team. “It’s a shout-out to all the staff there that have helped us along the way at YSC because they played a big role and helped us develop as players and students.”
A win against Marshall tonight would be the 9th title for Indiana.
Saint Louis has the most titles with 10. Lebanon County native Jerry Yeagley was the head coach for six of the titles and his son Todd Yeagley is seeking his second as the Hoosiers head coach. They lost their last College Cup final to Stanford in extra time at Subaru Park in Chester in 2017.
Marshall is playing for its first title in program history after knocking off No. 1 Clemson, defending national champs Georgetown and UNC en route to the final.
“We have a plan and we just have to stick to it,” Sessock said of playing against a Marshall team that scored a goal on their only shot Friday. “At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what the name on the jersey is, it’s what the 11 guys on the field do.”
The match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. following the women’s national championship game between Florida State and Santa Clara at 5:30 p.m.