As his hernias, broken face and shaken confidence mend, Maryland sophomore Domenic Mediate is introducing himself to the college soccer world one big goal at a time.

Those who missed the under-recruited Mediate at his Texas high school or during his injury-plagued freshman season in College Park surely are watching now, as his explosive yet nimble runs through midfield and composed, timely finishing have helped vault top-ranked Maryland (18-4) into today's NCAA round-of-16 match against Conference USA champion Saint Louis (15-3-2). Mediate is second on the Terrapins in scoring with 10 goals and five assists, the majority of those points coming in significant late-season situations.

He scored two goals in the ACC tournament, including a head-turning, 25-yard blast in the semifinal win over Clemson and set up sophomore forward Abe Thompson's winning goal in the final. Mediate then tallied the only goal in a second-round triumph over American this past Wednesday.

"I knew I had it in me. It was just a matter of getting my health somewhere back to normal," Mediate said. "It would just take time; now that everything hopefully is healthy I can try to get to my full potential."

Maryland Coach Sasho Cirovski had faith in Mediate since signing him sight unseen. Cirovski was introduced to Mediate through former Terrapin Philip Salyer, a fellow Texan who trained with Mediate during the summer of 2000. Cirovski said he always is eager to "bring in those one or two players under the radar screen" and often follows up on tips received from his current athletes.

Salyer, who currently plays in Germany, raved about Mediate. But few outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth area knew of the 5-foot-9, 155 pound forward. Mediate recently had moved to the area from Arkansas and joined a club team that offered minimal exposure. His performance at a showcase tournament in Long Island convinced Cirovski to stay in touch, but Mediate struggled with pain in his groin throughout his senior season and drew interest only from college coaches in the region. His best offer was from Tulsa.

"Enough people that I trusted had seen him play," Cirovski said. "I had a great rapport with Dom. I love the kid. I loved his parents. He's a humble kid who wanted a chance at a big-time program. . . . We were the first big school to go after him and offer him an opportunity to play."

Mediate signed with Maryland, led his high school team to the state title despite the hernias, then joined one of the top club teams in Texas, where his talents were displayed to a wider audience. But by then it was too late for the coaches who came calling.

"Everybody was upset he had already committed," Cirovski said. "He had started to open some eyes. I had a lot of coaches giving me some stick. 'How did you get this guy? How do you do it?' "

Mediate's freshman year at Maryland was brutal and short. The hernias grew more painful, limiting his minutes and hurting his confidence. He played in 10 games last fall, starting three, before breaking three bones in his face in a collision against George Mason.

Mediate did not play again and had the hernias surgically repaired in January.

"I was really worried and a little depressed," Mediate said. "I was homesick because I wasn't playing soccer and I didn't really enjoy being that far away from home just to go to school. I wondered if I was going to be able to play like I used to."

Mediate has and then some, changing games with his touch, composure and acceleration this season. He is a perfect foil for the imposing Thompson (W.T. Woodson) and has been a valuable playmaker alongside struggling junior Sumed Ibrahim. Mediate has proven his point and is now two games away from the College Cup semifinals back in Dallas, where a Maryland team without a senior on the roster would play for its first national title since 1968.

Either way, the Terrapins will be heavy favorites in 2003. By then, Mediate expects to be even better.

"Everything is moving different after my surgery. Once I get all my coordination back and the ball skills I used to have I think I'll be more effective," Mediate said. "I want to work through the spring to get closer to my full potential, and I think I can score close to one or two goals a game. I'm confident I can do that."