CHESTER, Pa. — The Maryland men’s soccer team is headed to the College Cup final because senior Patrick Mullins scored two expert goals off two superb passes Friday night and because freshman Zack Steffen made a breathtaking save in the frantic final moments.
The fifth-seeded Terrapins are going to the championship match against Notre Dame because they withstood No. 8 Virginia’s menacing second half, and in the last meeting as ACC rivals, they claimed a 2-1 victory at PPL Park.
By virtue of an 11th consecutive victory, the Terps (17-3-5) will play for their third NCAA title in nine seasons at 3 p.m. Sunday.
In an all-ACC final, they’ll face a third-seeded Notre Dame team (16-1-6) that defeated No. 7 New Mexico, 2-0. Sophomore forward Patrick Hodan scored in each half.
Mullins scored early and late, and Steffen, a Philadelphia Union prospect playing in the MLS club’s stadium, denied Brian James’s sure-thing shot in the 88th minute.
“When you have a Steffen in goal and a Mullins up top, and a bunch of hard workers in between, you have got a chance every game,” Terps Coach Sasho Cirovski said. “Today both came through with special plays.”
Said Cavaliers Coach George Gelnovatch: “It’s been a while since we have been beaten by one guy. Actually, two guys: The goalkeeper and No. 15. We outplayed the rest of their team. . . . Zack making the save, I was already up off my chair. I don’t know where he came from.”
The teams had met in the ACC title game last month, an unyielding affair decided in the closing moments when Mullins’s dangerous cross resulted in an own goal. This time, he put the Terrapins ahead with brilliant technique.
Mikias Eticha (Stuart High) released Mullins with a splendid through ball from midfield. Mullins met it in stride, and with goalkeeper Calle Brown coming off his line, he used the outside of his inside foot from beyond the penalty area to direct the ball into the open net.
While most college players would have tried to settle the ball and round the goalie, Mullins went with his first touch — a decision that left Brown stranded and without a prayer.
Virginia’s first major threat came four minutes into the second half. Steffen failed to properly handle Darius Madison’s angled effort but was rescued by the near post. “That’s why goalies kiss the post before every game,” he said.
Mullins extended the lead in the 76th minute. Again, a terrific pass led to the goal as Tsubasa Endoh lifted a high ball over the last defender. Mullins let it bounce before lashing a wicked shot past Brown for his 18th goal of the year and 46th of his career, second on Maryland’s all-time list behind fellow Louisianan Jason Garey (2002-05).
Virginia wasn’t done. A minute later, Maryland’s Dan Metzger took down Marcus Salandy-Defour in the box, and Todd Wharton converted the penalty kick.
Steffen then preserved the lead, extending to his right and slapping away James’s bid.
In the first match, the Fighting Irish went ahead in the seventh minute when Harrison Shipp, the ACC’s offensive player of the year, set up Hodan with a fine run and diagonal ball. Hodan pulled the ball back from a defender and fired into the lower left corner.
In the 65th minute, Vince Cicciarelli’s one-timer struck the crossbar and fell to Hodan for a composed finish and his 11th goal. The Irish were rarely threatened in securing their 10th shutout.
“It’ll be very nice to take the title home,” said Bobby Clark, a Glasgow native who played for the Washington Whips pro team in 1967 and, during a 28-year coaching career, guided Stanford to the 1998 final. “But it’s not going to be easy.”
NCAA notes: Mullins and UMBC forward Pete Caringi III were named to the NSCAA’s all-American first team. Georgetown forwards Steve Neumann and Brandon Allen, and UMBC defender Omar Ballo made the second team.
Virginia midfielder Eric Bird, Navy defender Joseph Greenspan, George Mason goalkeeper Stefan Krause, UMBC defender Kadeem Dacres and Bucknell defender Mayowa Alli (McNamara) are on the third team.