Terps come back, then move on

Down by 2 to Saint Louis, UM men score four times to return to NCAA semis

College Soccer

December 08, 2003|By Bo Smolka | Bo Smolka,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

COLLEGE PARK - Ever since a stinging loss to UCLA in the national semifinals last year, the Maryland's men's soccer team has been focused on returning to the College Cup, soccer's final four.

It took a day longer than the Terps would have liked, but they punched their ticket to this year's semifinals with a 4-2 win over Saint Louis yesterday before 1,507 shivering fans at Ludwig Field.

In a game that was postponed from Saturday by weather, the second-seeded Terps (20-2-1) overcame an early 2-0 deficit and a failed penalty kick to record what Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski called "the greatest comeback in my history here."

Maryland advanced to the national semifinals Friday in Columbus, Ohio, against sixth-seeded St. John's, a 3-2 winner over Creighton here yesterday. No. 8 Indiana will meet unseeded Santa Clara in the other semifinal.

For the second straight year, Maryland ended the season for Saint Louis (15-4-3). The Terps erased the early Billikens lead by scoring four goals in a span of 11:09 that straddled halftime. Nino Marcantonio came off the bench to record three assists for the Terps, including two on corner kicks that drew Maryland even at 2-2 by halftime.

Kenney Bertz scored the game-winner in the opening minute of the second half, heading a corner kick from A.J. Herrera past Billikens keeper Martin Hutton. Jason Garey added his 13th goal of the season - and third in three NCAA tournament games - less than two minutes later.

Maryland was in Saint Louis' end for most of the match, outshooting the seventh-seeded Billikens 26-9.

Maryland goalkeeper Noah Palmer did not record a save in the second half as the Terps' airtight back line and a stiff wind limited Saint Louis' chances. Billikens forward Vedad Ibisevic, the fourth-leading scorer in the country with 18 goals, was held to two shots.

In the first half, though, the Billikens capitalized on the few chances they got.

In the seventh minute, Saint Louis' Will John crossed a ball from the right side that Alex Matteson directed with a back-heel shot for a 1-0 lead.

Maryland had a chance to draw even in the 21st minute as the Billikens were called for a hand ball in the box. But Herrera's penalty kick was denied by Hutton with a diving save to his left.

In the 32nd minute, a routine ball slipped out of Palmer's grasp for a Billikens corner kick, their only one of the first half. John DiRaimondo crossed the ball from the left side and Kevin Wickart drilled it past Palmer, giving Maryland its first two-goal deficit of the season.

If that was supposed to be the knockout blow from the Billikens, the Terps simply shrugged it off.

"Our kids showed incredible composure and discipline," Cirovski said.

It seemed that once Maryland solved the Billkens' defense, the floodgates might open. It finally happened when Marcantonio, a late first-half substitution, delivered a cross on a corner kick from the right side that Clarence Goodson headed past Hutton in the 37th minute.

Six minutes later, Abe Thompson converted another corner kick by Marcantonio, scoring his fifth goal of the season during the ensuing scramble near the goal.

"If I can get the ball in there in front of the goal, someone is going to hit it in," Marcantonio said.

Said Cirovski: "At the beginning of the year, there was no doubt that anything other than getting back to the College Cup would be a disappointment."

NOTE: Maryland senior midfielder Scott Buete left the game late in the second half after suffering a bruised right foot and sprained right ankle, but Maryland officials said he'll probably play Friday.

Goals: SL-Matteson, Wickart; M-Goodson, Thompson, Bertz, Garey. Assists: SL-John 2, DiRaimondo; M-Marcantonio 3, Goodson, Herrera, Stammler. Saves: SL-Hutton 8; M-Palmer 2. Half: 2-2.

College Cup

Site:Columbus (Ohio) Crew Stadium

First semifinal:No. 2 Maryland (20-2-1) vs. No. 6 St. John's (16-5-3), 5 p.m. Friday, ESPN2

Second semifinal: No. 8 Indiana (15-3-5) vs. Santa Clara (16-3-4), 7:30 p.m. Friday, no live TV

Final: 2 p.m. Sunday, ESPN2

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