The Maryland and Georgetown men’s soccer programs have existed in different domains for 15 years — the Terrapins contending for national championships and the Hoyas just seeking a place in their conference tournament.
But with one more victory apiece, teams close in proximity but far apart in achievement will collide in the NCAA semifinals.
Each took another step toward a College Cup meeting Sunday by winning in strikingly different manners. After the third-seeded Hoyas scored late for a 1-1 draw and then edged visiting Syracuse, 4-2, on penalty kicks to secure their first quarterfinal berth, the No. 2 Terrapins strolled to a 5-1 victory over Coastal Carolina in College Park for their fourth elite eight appearance in five years.
On Saturday, Georgetown (18-3-2) will host unseeded San Diego (14-8-0) at 1 p.m. and Maryland (19-1-2) will welcome No. 10 Louisville (14-5-1) at 5. The College Cup is Dec. 7-9 in Hoover, Ala.
Maryland, the ACC champion, had been locked in tight matches for most of two months but scored three times after intermission to pull away from the Chanticleers (20-3-2).
Mikias Eticha, Sunny Jane and Jereme Raley scored their first goals of the season — Jane had two in a four-minute span early in the second half — and Patrick Mullins posted his 15th of the year just 73 seconds after the Terps conceded the tying goal midway through the opening period. Despite the second-highest goal haul of the season, Maryland Coach Sasho Cirovski was most pleased with the defense against the highest-scoring team in the nation.
“We expected this could become a shootout,” he said. “Although this was two great attacking teams, I thought the team that was going to win was the one that was going to be better defensively.”
Maryland, third in the nation in goals, overcame Ashton Bennett’s equalizer when Mullins served a 30-yard free kick deep into the box. With two Terps surging toward the ball, goalkeeper Mark Petrus held his ground. Neither made contact, though, and Petrus was late to react as the shot bounded into the left side of the net.
Jane scored from an acute angle in the 60th minute, then made it 4-1 in the 64th when he one-timed Christiano Francois’s end-line cross. Raley closed out the scoring in the 86th.
“It’s going to take a very special team to beat them,” Chanticleers Coach Shaun Docking said.
Georgetown fell behind in the 29th minute. The Orange’s Jordan Murrell served a long free kick into the penalty area, where Jordan Vale’s glancing header beat goalkeeper Tomas Gomez.
The Hoyas’ ample possession didn’t translate into high-quality opportunities through the first 75 minutes. Down the stretch, however, they put the Orange (14-6-1) under extreme duress. Syracuse’s Alex Bono made two outstanding saves and Nick Bibbs cleared a shot from the six-yard box before Brandon Allen, the Big East’s rookie of the year, powered a left-footer from 10 yards into the left corner in the 85th minute.
“There is no quit in these guys and I don’t think there was ever panic,” Hoyas Coach Brian Wiese said. “There was urgency, but I don’t think they would have stopped believing. It’s a credit to these guys, seeing their season maybe slip away.”
After 20 minutes of extra time, the Hoyas prevailed. They converted four consecutive attempts while Syracuse missed wide on its first try and then saw Gomez make a diving stop on Murrell’s bid in the fourth round to end it.
Georgetown had missed all three penalty kicks during the regular season, unusual futility at any level of soccer. “It’s in the back of your mind but you tune it out in such a different situation,” midfielder Ian Christianson said. “I don’t think it really affected us. We hit our penalties confidently.”
“I had a sense the way he lined up,” Gomez said. “I just went with the way I thought he would go and got it right.”
“We’re terrible at them,” joked Wiese, whose senior class experienced penalty kick losses to DePaul in the 2009 Big East tournament and North Carolina in the 2010 NCAA tournament. “We’ve been through it and we’re fed up with losing.”