COLLEGE PARK -- The Maryland women's soccer team had squandered opportunity after opportunity.
Then, with 3 1/2 minutes remaining, a deflected penalty kick slowly rolled across San Diego's open goal in front of an oncoming mob. And in one flash, game-long frustration turned into celebration.
Keri Sarver outraced everyone to the ball, slamming in the point-blank shot to lift the No. 13 Terps to a 1-0 victory over San Diego in a second-round NCAA tournament game at Ludwig Field yesterday.
Maryland (19-4-2) established a school record for wins in a season and advanced to play defending national champion and second seed Notre Dame in the quarterfinal round in South Bend, Ind. It's the second straight trip to the Final Eight for the Terps, who lost to Portland by a goal in last year's quarterfinals.
The Toreros (14-6-1) tried to contain the Maryland attack with physical play that drew two yellow cards during the game. But that strategy backfired when defenders Amy Gutowski and Amanda Stack tripped Terps forward Emmy Harbo in the penalty area with under four minutes left to play.
Maryland defender Erin Taylor sent the ensuing penalty kick to the right corner, where outstretched goalkeeper Allison Worden saved a goal with a deflection. But Sarver beat a swarm of converging players with a sprint from 18 yards.
"There is always a chance that the ball is going to hit the goalie or the post," said Sarver, Maryland's second-leading scorer who left the game briefly with an ankle injury 26 minutes before converting the rebound. "You just run in there and hope for the best. I saw the goalie and Taylor down, and I just kicked it in."
Sarver's last game-winning goal came against Penn State on Oct. 6, which was the last time Maryland won back-to-back games. But unlike their late-season tailspin, the Terps dominated the field yesterday.
Maryland had a wide margin in possession time and created several chances near the goal. When the Toreros tried to counter, the Terps either intercepted downfield passes or stopped San Diego short of the penalty area.
The Terps outshot the Toreros, 11-7, including 8-3 in the second half. However, Maryland only allowed one shot from within 20 yards and held San Diego's leading scorer, Michele Kennedy, without a shot. The Toreros had scored in 14 consecutive games before yesterday.
"We did a lot of chasing out there," San Diego coach Tony da Luz said. "I don't think we put two passes together the whole first half. Normally, we are a very patient and possession-oriented team."
The Terps, who haven't surrendered a goal in 180 minutes of NCAA tournament play this year, move into the quarterfinals with a 16-game winning streak against nonconference opponents.
"I want to go as far as we can go," said Maryland goalkeeper Missy Price, who tied a school record with her 12th shutout this season. "I think of Portland [last year] and how we were a goal away from the Final Four."
Goals: M--Sarver. Saves: SD--Crothers 1, Worden 3; M--Price 4. Halftime: 0-0.
Pub Date: 11/25/96