As the No. 5 Maryland men’s soccer team prepares to meet Boston College in Tuesday’s quarterfinal game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, the players can take some confidence in knowing that they probably have cemented an at-large bid even if they fail to capture the program’s fourth Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship in the past six years.
And if that scenario were to occur to the Terps (10-3-5 overall and 7-1-3 in the league) who are the top seed in the tournament, they still believe that they can bring home the university’s third NCAA title.
Asked to assess the team’s potential, redshirt senior forward Jake Pace, a Columbia native and River Hill graduate, said, “National champions. Hard work we put in the summer and the fall can only lead to results, and this team has the drive to do it. With our leadership group, with the captains we have, there’s no reason we shouldn’t expect it.”
Some coaches might cringe at their players publicly voicing such expectations, but Pace’s confidence was welcomed by coach Sasho Cirovski.
“I wouldn’t wake up in the morning if I didn’t think my team could win a national championship,” he said. “That’s the standard for Maryland soccer. If you don’t feel that you can win a national championship, then you’re probably in the wrong place. If you don’t believe it, you can’t achieve it. So we start with belief tabled with humility and then we move forward. Our goals are very high and sometimes we don’t enjoy the moments as much because we’re constantly striving for such high goals. But in the end, we know what we signed up for and we know what we have, and it’s a lot of fun.”
After opening the season with a 1-2-2 record, Maryland has gone 9-1-3 in its last 13 contests. Senior forward Patrick Mullins insisted that the team is not looking past the No. 8 seed Eagles (7-8-2, 4-6-1), but he also agreed with his teammate’s championship aspirations.
“There have been some ups and downs this season, and we knew we had good relationships with each other on and off the field before the season started,” he said. “They were put to the test, and I feel like we passed and have gotten better from those tests. We still have tests ahead of us, but right now, we’re feeling confident in our group more than ever.”