Beach, Terps oust Penn State, 2-0, in NCAA opener Maryland to play James Madison next


COLLEGE PARK -- Keith Beach lugs a duffel bag overstuffed with soccer equipment across campus to the soccer office as part of his post-game freshman duties. As a newcomer, he also takes his share of ribbing from his teammates every time he scores a goal.

Not the expected congratulations for Beach, who once again provided the game-winning punch line yesterday.

Beach's goal midway through the first half propelled No. 15 Maryland to a 2-0 victory over No. 9 Penn State in front of 1,893 at Ludwig Field in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

After beating two defenders to a pass from Maryland forward Pierre Venditti, Beach angled a grounding shot to the left corner past goalkeeper Grant Naylor and immediately was jumped upon by a mob of teammates. Five of Beach's six goals have lifted the Terrapins to victory.

"It's exciting for me," said Beach, a midfielder from Northport, N.Y. "At first, I thought he [Venditti] played it a little ahead of me, but it was a real good touch. I just had to run through the defense and kick it in."

The Terps (13-6-1) advance to the second round next weekend against James Madison, which defeated Maryland on Sept. 27. It's the first time Maryland has moved past the first round in consecutive seasons in 26 years.

Penn State (15-5), which had won in the first round three straight seasons and was undefeated on the road this season, maintained the tempo through the early part of the first half. Then came a timeout for the regional television coverage.

"The TV timeout is useless," Penn State coach Barry Gorman said. "It should be taken out and put where it belongs. It destroys the rhythm of the game."

The Terps, who had lost two of their last three games and hadn't beaten a ranked team in two months, took the opportunity to refocus on some pre-game strategy.

During the timeout, Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski was animated in the huddle, pointing at the offensive end of the field.

"I wanted us to be a little more aggressive and close in on their backs," Cirovski said. "Our pressure was a little slow up front. We stepped up our play and made the most of our chances."

A minute after the timeout, Judah Cooks responded and deflected a Penn State pass on the offensive end to Venditti, who set up Beach for the opening score.

Cooks ignited another transition score by stealing the ball from Nittany Lions forward Brannon Seaman and feeding Doug Smith just outside the goal mouth. Smith controlled the pass off his chest, and volleyed it into the goal off his left foot to put the Terps ahead 2-0 five minutes before halftime.

Cirovski gave credit for some of the Terps' success to an upset loss to North Carolina in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament on Nov. 9. The early exit allowed Maryland to rest three days and still be able to practice six days.

"I'm disappointed that we lost [in the ACC tournament], but it gave us a chance to practice and practice preseason hard," Cirovski said. "This is the first time we have been without an injury since the N.C. State game on Sept. 17. You always have to find the positive out of situations."

Holding the two-goal lead, Maryland clogged up the defensive end, thwarting several Penn State scoring chances. When the Terps defense wasn't sharp, goalkeeper Russell Payne was.

JTC Payne, who recorded the second shutout against the Nittany Lions this year and the first in an NCAA tournament game by a Maryland goalkeeper since 1969, came up with two diving saves in a four-minute stretch near the end of the first half and finished with four stops.

Helping Payne on the defense was Beach, who shut down first-team All-Big Ten midfielder Sebastien Gouverneur.

"We knew this was going to be the best first-round game of the tournament, and it was," Cirovski said. "The game was won in the midfield and we did a good job there the entire game."

Now get the bags, Beach.

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