Shannon Higgins-Cirovski had a great first week coaching the Maryland women's soccer team, followed by a very long month. Now, with the Terrapins opening NCAA tournament play at home at 7 tonight with a first-round game against Long Island, she can say it was all worth it.

The Terps started the season with two quick wins--including a season-opening victory over Higgins-Cirovski's former team, George Washington--then went 1-7-1 over the next nine. But Maryland (10-9-1) enters tonight's match having won seven of nine games, including five shutouts. The Terps went 4-2-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference--second behind North Carolina and the best mark in the program's 13 years--and Higgins-Cirovski was named ACC coach of the year.

"Obviously I'm honored, but I feel especially honored because it is something that your peers choose," Higgins-Cirovski said. "It's nice to know that people from outside thought highly of our team's performance this season. It is more than I expected coming in, but the team really got itself up for the big ACC games."

Maryland defeated Duke in the ACC tournament quarterfinals but lost to Wake Forest in the semifinals last Friday. If Maryland wins tonight, it faces No. 10 Penn State this weekend.

Cavs Can't Wait to Play

Among the 16 teams that earned first-round byes in the NCAA women's tournament, No. 15 Virginia may be the only one disappointed about not playing sooner. Coach April Heinrichs said her team is eager to play after exiting the ACC tournament with a 3-1 loss to Clemson last Thursday.

"One of our captains said after the ACC tournament, 'I don't care who we play, when we play or where we play--I want to kill the next team we play,' " Heinrichs said. "That's the attitude right now. The girls can't wait to play."

Virginia will host the winner of the Pennsylvania-James Madison first-round game at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Sole a Savior for Hoyas

Georgetown sophomore midfielder Andy Sole scored 6 minutes 34 seconds into overtime Saturday to give the Hoyas a 1-0 victory over host St. John's in the Big East men's tournament quarterfinals. Sole first preserved the Hoyas' season with about two minutes left in regulation when he cleared a St. John's shot off the goal line. Then in overtime, after sophomore Kenny Owens headed Michael Gross's long throw-in to him, Sole beat goalkeeper Dan Popik with a 15-yard right-footed volley.

Georgetown (10-8-1) plays top-seeded Rutgers (12-4-3) at 10 a.m. Friday in the conference semifinals in Storrs, Conn. Connecticut plays Syracuse in the other semifinal. . . .

Virginia Coach George Gelnovatch said he feels confident about his team's chances of earning an NCAA tournament bid entering Thursday's ACC tournament quarterfinal against No. 5 Maryland. The Cavaliers (10-7-1) had not lost more than six games in a season since 1980, when the team finished 8-9-1. But Gelnovatch believes the strength of this year's schedule should be enough to earn the five-time national champion Cavaliers a berth if they do not capture an automatic bid by winning the ACC tournament.

"Our strength of schedule may be number one in the country right now," Gelnovatch said. "I told the guys, 'If you make it into the tournament after this kind of schedule, you've seen it all.' "

Marcantonio Sets Mark

American forward Nino Marcantonio (Churchill) set the Eagles' freshman scoring record with 31 points (10 goals, 11 assists) and was named the Colonial Athletic Association's rookie of the year. Fourth seed AU (9-8-1) plays fifth seed William & Mary (11-6-3) at 5 p.m. today in a CAA quarterfinal match at Virginia Beach Sportsplex.