Maryland can't finish, falls in semis, 1-0

St. John's wins, will meet Indiana in soccer final

College Soccer

December 13, 2003|By Norm Weber | Norm Weber,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

COLUMBUS, Ohio - St. John's pulled off a big upset in men's college soccer yesterday, eliminating Maryland, 1-0, in the NCAA College Cup semifinals at Columbus Crew Stadium.

The second-ranked and tournament-favorite Terrapins (20-3-1) outshot the Red Storm 25-9 but lost in the national semifinals for the second year in a row.

"Anytime you come into a championship tournament like this, you expect your team to play like a championship team," said Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski. "We played like champions. Soccer is a strange and cruel game. Today, the ball didn't bounce our way."

Sixth-seeded St. John's (17-5-3) scored the only goal of the game at 34:18 on a penalty kick by Sebastian Alvarado-Ralph. Maryland goalie Noah Palmer was issued a yellow card when he banged up Ashley Kozicki just inside the penalty area, setting up Alvarado-Ralph's kick.

"He [Palmer] made a commitment to go after the ball," Cirovski said. "He made up his mind, and I think he was surprised the player was there. It was a very competitive situation. He made that commitment to go for the ball and ran over one of their guys doing it."

The Red Storm will take on Indiana in tomorrow's championship. The No. 8 Hoosiers (16-3-5) were 1-0 winners over unseeded Santa Clara (16-4-4) in double overtime in yesterday's other semifinal.

"The [tournament] is so short and quick that we have a lot to look at," St. John's coach Dave Masur said.

St. John's, the No. 6 seed, was awarded the penalty kick after Palmer clipped Kozicki's head while reaching to deflect a shot.

Kozicki, who subbed in just one minute earlier, was sent sprawling, and Palmer was shown the card. Alvarado-Ralph's penalty kick went to the left of Palmer, who had dived to his right.

Maryland was blanked by the St. John's defense, which is anchored by senior Chris Wingert, a finalist for the Hermann Trophy - soccer's version of the Heisman.

In the second half, the Terrapins had several good looks but weren't able to convert. Their best scoring opportunity came in the 79th minute, when Abe Thompson struck a header from 6 yards out off a cross from Nino Marcantonio.

Bill Gaudette stopped the ball inches in front of the goal line for one of his nine saves.

"We had some terrific opportunities, whether it was a missed shot here or there, a save by their goalkeeper," Cirovski said. "The ball just didn't go in the back of the net."

Maryland's pulled off four quick shots on goal in the first 7:54 of the game, then didn't have an additional shot on goal for the rest of the half.

"We didn't get off to the greatest start," Masur said. "Maryland came out well, Billy made a couple great plays coming off his line."

The Terrapins did not take a corner kick until 83:02 and finished the game with two. In last week's quarterfinals, they scored three straight goals off corners to rally past Saint Louis, 4-2.

"We put a lot of pressure on them the entire game," Thompson said. "We had big chances early, but didn't finish. We kept it up the whole game with shots on goal, but [Gaudette] kept stopping them."

Maryland was looking for a championship bid after losing in the semifinals last year to eventual champion UCLA, 2-1. The Terrapins were making their third trip to the semifinals in six seasons.

"It's disappointing," said Maryland defenseman Seth Stammler. "We didn't connect on our chances. We had two 20-win seasons and go out as seniors leaving the Maryland soccer program in a better image than when we came in."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

College Cup

Site:Columbus (Ohio) Crew Stadium

Yesterday's semifinals:

St. John's 1, Maryland 0

Indiana 1, Santa Clara 0, 2OT

Tomorrow's final:

No. 6 St. John's (17-5-3) vs. No. 8 Indiana (16-3-5), 2 p.m., ESPN2

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