Maryland, Virginia men's soccer meet again, this time in NCAA tournament

Coach Sasho Cirovski, right, is seeking a second consecutive title with Maryland, but U-Va. stands in the Terrapins' way.
Coach Sasho Cirovski, right, is seeking a second consecutive title with Maryland, but U-Va. stands in the Terrapins' way. (Tim Sharp/associated Press)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 4, 2009

In the past 20 years, the Maryland and Virginia men's soccer programs have combined for seven national championships and 14 final four appearances. They've met every regular season and crossed paths eight times in the ACC tournament.

Yet despite their regional rivalry and annual trips to postseason, the Terrapins and Cavaliers have mostly stayed out of each other's way in the NCAA tournament. This year seemed no different because, although the teams were closely aligned in the 48-team brackets, Maryland needed to win twice on the road to set up a possible showdown.

With each victory, the long-awaited clash moved closer to fruition, and after the teams secured their respective third-round matches minutes apart last Sunday afternoon, it was set: Maryland vs. second-seeded Virginia in a quarterfinal Friday at 7 p.m. at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville. The survivor will advance to the College Cup next week in Cary, N.C.

"There is something special when you face Virginia, you can't escape it," said Sasho Cirovski, coach of the defending champion Terrapins. "But regardless of who you are playing, the chance to go to the College Cup is motivation enough."

The programs haven't faced each other in the NCAA tournament since 1994, when Maryland was beginning its renaissance under Cirovski and Virginia -- thanks in part to a 2-1 second-round victory over the visiting Terrapins -- was en route to a fourth consecutive national title.

Though the teams have gone their separate ways in the postseason over the years, they keep running into each other this fall. Friday's meeting will be the third in five weeks following a scoreless tie in College Park on Oct. 31 and a 1-0 Virginia triumph in the ACC quarterfinals 11 days later.

Both matches were played in wet conditions, dampening the teams' attacking efforts. The first encounter included two red cards and five yellows and the second was impacted by strong winds.

Maryland's issue Friday will not be the conditions but Virginia's defense, which has registered 10 consecutive shutouts and not conceded a goal in more than 1,017 minutes, dating from an early deficit at Virginia Tech in mid-October. Goalkeeper Diego Restrepo, a transfer from South Florida, has 14 shutouts and has yet to allow more than one goal in a game this season.

He was kept busy during the 1-0 result against Portland last week, needing to make two outstanding saves to extend Virginia's unbeaten streak to 13 (10-0-3).

Cavaliers Coach George Gelnovatch has given some thought to how his team might react if it were to fall behind, saying: "Do you talk to your team about it beforehand? The thing is, we've been there."

Besides the 3-1 comeback victory over the Hokies, Virginia responded to an early deficit against Washington the first weekend of the season for a 2-1 overtime win.

The Cavaliers are hoping to bolster their attack against the Terrapins with the return of Brian Ownby, a U.S. under-20 national team forward who has been slowed by a groin injury. He played just eight minutes against Portland.

Meantime, Maryland is looking to maintain its rhythm after scoring twice in each of its three previous matches, including the 2-0 victory at 10th-seeded Harvard last Sunday. The striking tandem of Jason Herrick (nine goals) and Casey Townsend (six) has rounded into form, and "we feel like we are healthier and playing better than we were the first two times we played Virginia," Cirovski said.

Facing the Cavaliers' near-flawless defense, however, poses a massive challenge. "They are very disciplined and tough to penetrate," Cirovski said, "but we feel good about where we are right now."

The Maryland-Virginia survivor will face the winner of Saturday night's quarterfinal between third-seeded Wake Forest (16-3-3) and sixth-seeded UCLA (12-3-4). In the other bracket, No. 5 North Carolina (15-2-3) hosts Drake (16-6-2) on Friday night and top seed Akron (22-0) welcomes No. 8 Tulsa (15-4-2) on Saturday.

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