Streaking Terps Stop Patriots, Win 12th Straight
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
In each of the past seven games heading into last night's NCAA tournament matchup with local rival George Mason, the second-seeded Maryland men's soccer team had gutted out one-goal victories en route to an ACC tournament title and a national-best 11-game winning streak.
But in last night's second-round game at Ludwig Field, there was nary a heart-stopping moment for the Terrapins, who dominated play and turned two Patriots mistakes into first-half goals for a 2-0 victory, extending their winning streak and ending George Mason's own eight-game run.
It was the fourth consecutive shutout for the Terrapins (19-3), who will host either UC Santa Barbara or California in the third round on Saturday at 1 p.m.
"I think it's kept us humble," Maryland Coach Sasho Cirovski said. "We've created some good opportunities in a lot of games, but I think we've recognized that if we take care of things defensively we have enough talent to give ourselves a chance to win. You don't need to win by more than one goal, you just need to win."
George Mason (14-7-2) played direct, attacking soccer in the first 10 minutes, pushing forward in hopes of grabbing an early lead. But after weathering those early minutes, the Terrapins became the aggressor and dictated the tempo for the remainder of the match.
Forwards Casey Townsend and Jason Herrick were threats to score nearly every time they touched the ball, using their speed and skill to outmatch the Patriots' defense. And after Maryland nearly found the net twice within six minutes after the 15-minute mark, the Terrapins finally broke through behind their two talented young forwards.
Herrick sparked the first goal in the 22nd minute when he took possession near midfield after a George Mason turnover and quickly fed a well-placed through ball to Townsend near the top of the 18-yard box. With Patriots goalkeeper Sean Kelley charging, the freshman calmly tucked a shot home to give the Terrapins a 1-0 lead.
"You're always a little concerned coming into a game like this after being off for nine days," Cirovski said. "It took us about 10, 15 minutes to sort of get our rhythm a little bit but then I thought we took control of the game and we were dangerous throughout."
Maryland continued to push forward, with George Mason's defense unable to match up with Townsend and Herrick. Plus, Doug Rodkey and Jeremy Hall were effective taking the space going forward in the midfield. The sustained pressure paid off just before the half.
With just more than two minutes remaining, Drew Yates's pass was dummied by two Maryland players before reaching Hall on the left sideline. The junior swung in a cross that found Graham Zusi in front of the net, and Zusi easily nodded it home to double the Terrapins' lead.
"It went through Herrick's legs and Jeremy called for it and I let it go," Townsend said. "And it worked out."
The goal seemed to further demoralize George Mason, and the Patriots couldn't recover, failing to put together any threatening attacks in the second half. But reaching the second round of the tournament was a sign of great improvement for George Mason, which was 6-6-2 after a loss to Hofstra on Oct. 22.
"Tough ending to our season, but I'm very proud of our guys and the season that we had," George Mason Coach Greg Andrulis said. "Three weeks ago, we were in 10th place in our conference and the turnaround that we had is remarkable and we have an awful lot to be proud of."
· CONNECTICUT 2, VIRGINIA 0: Dori Arad and Tony Cascio scored as the Huskies (11-4-6) eliminated the 10th-seeded Cavaliers (11-9-1) in Charlottesville.