Maryland's top-seeded men's soccer team hopes weaknesses exposed in a recent loss might lead to a greater victory as the team approaches today's 7 p.m., second-round NCAA tournament game against Brown at Ludwig Field.
In the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament on Nov. 11, a 4-2 semifinal loss to Duke stopped the Terrapins (15-4-1) short of their fourth straight championship-game appearance.
Though the defeat robbed the team of one distinction, it provided the perks of rest and self-critique that could help bring another high mark to the program - a College Cup title next month in Cary, N.C.
Instead of playing last Sunday, the team had all of last week to have what it deemed solid practices, a luxury that Maryland hadn't enjoyed going into the NCAAs since 2001.
Previously, "We had to spend two days to get everyone's legs back," said Kenney Bertz, a senior defenseman for the team. "[The rest] helps us clean up the consistencies during the week."
In particular, an otherwise stingy defense has allowed nine goals over the last four games, including the four by Duke and three in a tie with defending national champion Indiana on Oct. 29 - the Hoosiers scored all of their goals in the final 17 minutes of regulation.
Before the season's last two weeks, the defense had given up only 10 goals over 16 games.
Led by Jason Garey, a senior attacker and the nation's leading scorer, the Terps managed to roll off 11 straight wins while integrating 10 new players into the mix.
"Nothing like a loss to humble you," said Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski. "We went 11 games without a loss. Some mistakes were overlooked and we developed bad habits."
For the team's four seniors - Bertz, Garey, Michael Dello-Russo (Wilde Lake) and Chris Lancos - a recession of those bad habits would be greatly appreciated.
After three College Cup appearances and 72 wins during their time in College Park, the lack of a national title for the seniors is soccer's version of a "rich people's problem."
"As far as I know, we're the only ones to get there three straight years," said Garey, a finalist for the Hermann Trophy, which goes to the nation's best player. "But this is my last year and we want to get over the hump."
At a glance
What -- NCAA men's soccer tournament, second round
Who -- No. 3 Maryland (15-4-1) vs. Brown (11-4-2)
When -- Tonight, 7
Where -- Ludwig Field, College Park
Note -- The winner will advance to a third-round game against the winner of a game hosted by Dartmouth.