For Terps, Sweet 16 has been anything but UM hopes to end string of 3 losses in 2nd round

November 29, 1997|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The Sweet 16 has left a bitter taste with Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski and the Terrapins seniors.

For the past three years, Maryland won its NCAA tournament first-round game but suffered frustrating losses in the second round.

First, it was a one-goal loss to Virginia in 1994. The next year, a shootout loss at James Madison. And last season, a three-goal defeat to William and Mary after outshooting the Tribe 16-4.

Maryland (16-5-1), which is ranked No. 9 nationally, will attempt to break that tournament slide when the Terps travel to No. 8 American tomorrow at 1 p.m. for an NCAA second-round game.

The Terps are trying to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in 28 years. American is playing in its first NCAA tournament since 1985.

"We have to focus on the present," Cirovski, in his fifth year at Maryland, said. "One of the lessons we have learned is that we must be very focused."

To illustrate that, Maryland held its first Thanksgiving practice under Cirovski. But the toughest part of that lesson had come earlier in the week: That's when the Terps reviewed the tape of their 3-1 debacle at American on Oct. 22.

In that game, Maryland outshot the Eagles, 16-10, but made several critical mistakes as American forward Scott Pearson scored a natural hat trick in a span of 23: 19.

The momentum went to American after Maryland's Randy Merkel hit the cross bar on a penalty kick 6 1/2 minutes into the game. Pearson put the Eagles ahead 1-0 when he converted a penalty kick midway through the first half and then tapped in an empty-net goal from six yards out by stripping the ball from Maryland goalkeeper Andy Kirk.

"It was a very surreal game," Cirovski said. "I don't think we played well, but we should have been up 2-0 at halftime. Instead we're behind two goals. I think we self-destructed. I think it will be a different story this time."

The Terps have rebounded since that loss, winning six of their past eight games, including a 1-0 victory last Sunday at Rutgers in a first-round NCAA game.

Pub Date: 11/29/97

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