Terps look to repeat against Saint Louis

College Soccer

December 07, 2003|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

The Maryland men's soccer team will be up against a familiar opponent when it plays Saint Louis in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament today at 1 p.m. in College Park.

Last year, the Billikens came to Ludwig Field and were turned away by the Terrapins, who won that match, 1-0, in overtime on their way to the College Cup - a trip that would be repeated with a win today.

Its name might be one of the few things that hasn't changed about Saint Louis (15-3-3), the tournament's seventh seed. Senior defenders Nick Gannon and Andy Pusateri are two of the few prominent holdovers from last year, as 23 of the team's 27 players are freshmen or sophomores.

Of the newcomers, the standout is forward Vedad Ibisevic, who scored the game-winning goals in Saint Louis' first two tournament games, against Binghamton and Washington. Ibisevic has 18 goals and four assists for 40 points.

"I remember it being a different team," said Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski, whose team is seeded second. "They had quite a bit of turnover, but they have a lot of dynamic players. They're a lot more explosive going forward than they were last year."

Just one game away from traveling to Columbus, Ohio, for the final four, Maryland (19-2-1) would seem to have the advantage of experience, with seven starters from last year's team who will definitely play.

Falling short in last year's semifinals is extra motivation for a team looking better in the postseason than last year. The Terps have had NCAA wins over Old Dominion and Akron.

"We're playing better than at this stage last year," Cirovski said. "We're more confident and we still have a chip squarely on our shoulder. We didn't like the way our season ended last year, and we haven't forgotten."

Hoping to stay healthy throughout the postseason, Maryland instead will play without Dominic Mediate, whose goal won the Saint Louis game last year. The striker suffered a broken collarbone Nov. 26 in the Old Dominion game.

Forwards Abe Thompson (foot) and Erwin Diaz (flu) were sidelined last Sunday, but got an extra day to recover after snow and ice forced a postponement of the Saint Louis game.

The Terps' injuries may be a minor factor as long as the defense remains strong (0.50 goals-against average), and as long as the team continues to get goals from sophomore Jason Garey, who has scored in each of the tournament games.

Midfielder Sumed Ibrahim is another comfort to Maryland. After a start slowed by a foot injury, the senior All-American from Ghana is playing well enough to become a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy, the award that goes to the best college soccer player.

"I do the same thing I did last year," said Sumed, who has seven goals and seven assists. "I just try to stay healthy. If you can do that, you can certainly do more. Last year, I had problems toward the end of the year. I broke my nose, I was getting sick. This year, I haven't had any problems."

NOTE: Due to the inclement weather in New York, the quarterfinal between St. John's and Creighton has been moved to Ludwig Field. The Red Storm and the Blue Jays will play at about 3:30 p.m., with the winner facing the Terps/Billikens winner in the College Cup.

Terps today

What: NCAA men's Division I soccer tournament, quarterfinals

Matchup: No. 7 Saint Louis (15-3-3) vs. No. 2 Maryland (19-2-1)

Site: Ludwig Field, College Park

Time: 1 p.m.

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