Maryland advances to soccer quarters 3-0 victory clinches first trip since 1969

November 30, 1998|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

COLLEGE PARK -- Three decades of disappointments gone. Four straight seasons ended by cruel memories vanished.

In perhaps the most dominating performance of this year's NCAA Division I men's soccer tournament, Maryland took out years of frustration and attacked Jacksonville relentlessly and with vengeance, slamming the Dolphins, 3-0, yesterday in a second-round game before 2,600 at Ludwig Field.

The Terrapins (15-7), who had suffered bitter defeats in each of the previous four Sweet 16s, retaliated for being labeled underachievers, advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1969, and find themselves three victories away from the school's first outright national soccer championship. Maryland will play Creighton, which yesterday upset No. 6 UCLA, with time and site being announced today.

"This is a major juncture in our program," Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said. "Getting over this hump is very big, no doubt about it. But this is not the final point. It was a collective hunger over the last four years that we brought to the field today.

"It's our goal here to win a national championship. It's just one step forward."

Maryland finished off a methodical and focused effort with three goals in a 23-minute span of the second half and continually pressured the Dolphins with its superior speed and athleticism.

Jacksonville (19-5), the third-highest-scoring team in the nation, never recovered from the loss of playmaker Mike Popovic, who was serving a one-game suspension after receiving a red card in last week's first-round victory over No. 3 Duke.

Maryland's back line, which includes three freshmen, took full advantage, anticipating the Dolphins' deliberate passing scheme and shutting their attack down to two shots and none in the final 64 minutes. It was the lowest shot total of the season for Jacksonville, which hadn't been shut out since Oct. 18.

"It was our most complete game of the year," Cirovski said. "I think we dictated play from beginning to end. All year long, I've told them they can be very special. Today, you saw a very determined group of players. It was our best game of the year."

After misfiring on their first 10 shots, the Terps broke through 9 1/2 minutes into the second half. Off a quick restart, Keith Beach caught the Dolphins off balance and tapped a pass wide right to Taylor Twellman, who baited Jacksonville goalkeeper Petar Popovic out and then curled a 14-yard shot just inside the left post.

"We both know where the other is," said Twellman, a freshman forward who recorded his 16th goal of the season and his sixth game-winner. "Beach and I both made eye contact, and he knew I wanted the ball. Beach just put it down and sent it through."

Jacksonville, which is mostly comprised of Yugoslavians and starts just one American-born player, didn't bring a technically polished European-style game, and appeared sloppy and slow at times.

With 13: 51 left in the game, Petar Popovic lazily dropped off a pass to a defender deep in Jacksonville territory. Maryland forward Jason Cropley, who re-entered the game 35 seconds before, hustled to intercept the ball and centered it to Kirk Miller for a 15-yard scoring strike.

Just 1: 33 later, Terps midfielder Randy Merkel stepped in front of a slow-rolling Dolphins pass and set up Pierre Venditti for an 18-yard shot to complete the counterattack.

"There were no good passes from us today," said Nesa Stefanovic, Jacksonville's leading scorer this season, who was held to one shot. "How many shots did we take? Two? That's embarrassing. Maryland was a better team on the field, and it showed. They ran more and worked harder than we did. That's soccer."

Pub Date: 11/30/98

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