After two College Cups, Terps a marked team

Highly ranked Maryland expects to handle heat

College Soccer

September 02, 2004|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - For the University of Maryland men's soccer team, which has nine newcomers and will field five new starters this season, sneaking up on teams is no longer an option.

That's what happens when you reach the NCAA College Cup semifinals two years straight. But the Terrapins - who open their season tomorrow against Marshall in the Nike Classic at Virginia - is a program that's reloading rather than rebuilding, with the highest of expectations under 12th-year coach Sasho Cirvoski.

"It's a great place to be and a great honor for our program," said Cirovski, whose team is ranked in the Top 10 in three preseason rankings, including No. 3 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

"The reward for good work is more work and, the better you do, the more you want to maintain and keep growing. We have yet to reach our apex and are working hard to get there."

Last season, it appeared the Terps were set to reach the apex, a national championship. They had the experience of a College Cup semifinal the previous year and all of their players were back. But once again, it was the semifinal round - this time a 1-0 upset loss to St. John's in which the Terps owned a 25-9 advantage in shots - that ended their year in frustration.

With senior leadership - including forward Abe Thompson, goalkeeper Noah Palmer and midfielder Ian Rodway - plus talented younger players who have brought carry-over enthusiasm, the Terps are again a confident mix.

"To get so close the past couple of years and not go all the way, it's a bitter taste," Rodway said. "So that's always in the back of our heads, and we want to remember that to get back. We just have to stick to our game, work hard, compete and grow every game to get better."

To come together as a team, the Terps went away in August, taking a 12-day trip to England and Scotland.

They played five games against professional teams, practiced daily, took in a Manchester United match and visited castles. But they got much more out of the trip.

"It gave us an opportunity to mesh as a team, especially with the new guys," Thompson said. "We took ourselves out of the comfort zone of College Park and going over to Europe, that put us all in the same boat as far as not knowing what to expect other than going into a culture that all they do is love soccer."

Another demanding schedule awaits the Terps, who will defend their Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship after posting a 5-1 league mark last fall. A rematch against St. John's is scheduled for Sept. 10 at Ludwig Field.

"A lot can be taken from the last two seasons," Palmer said. "They've been good seasons but disappointing ends. We have to learn from those experiences. We've been there and know it's going to take constant effort."

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