CHESTER, Pa. — A familiar formula helped the Maryland men's soccer team advance to its sixth NCAA final.
Senior forward Patrick Mullins scored two goals and freshman goalkeeper Zack Steffen made two critical saves in the second half to propel the Terps to a 2-1 semifinal victory over Virginia before an announced 4,172 at PPL Park on Friday night.
Maryland (17-3-5), the No. 5 seed, will have an opportunity to capture its fourth national title — and third under coach Sasho Cirovski — when the Terps face No. 3 seed Notre Dame in Sunday's final. The Fighting Irish defeated No. 7 seed New Mexico, 2-0, in Friday's earlier semifinal to reach its first championship game.
Mullins, who has six goals and three assists in his past nine starts, continues to build on his resume to repeat as the Hermann Trophy winner — college soccer's version of the Heisman. His goals Friday were his team-leading 17th and 18th.
Virginia (13-6-5), the No. 8 seed, appeared to establish the tempo in the early stages, controlling time of possession and beating the Terps to 50-50 balls.
But Maryland opened the scoring 10:39 into the first half. After a Cavaliers turnover, Terps junior midfielder Mikias Eticha spotted Mullins sprinting down the middle of the field with Virginia senior defender Kevin McBride on his right hip.
Ten yards behind the midline, Eticha floated the ball over McBride, and Mullins bunted the ball from the top of the box over junior goalkeeper Calle Brown and into the net.
With 14:31 left in the second half, sophomore midfielder Tsubasa Endoh lobbed a pass to Mullins, who slipped past a pair of defenders, settled the ball, and booted it with his left foot from 10 yards to up the Terps' advantage to 2-0.
Mullins, who has scored four goals and assisted on another in three meetings with the Cavaliers this season, credited Eticha and Endoh with getting him loose downfield.
“Great vision from both Mickey and Tsubasa because as a forward, all you can do is make hard runs and hope the ball gets there,” Mullins said. “When you have great players feeding you the ball, more times than not, they're going to get there. I got two great services and made sure to put them away.”
While Mullins was converting on one end of the field, Steffen made sure Virginia was not doing the same. With just 3:08 elapsed in the second half, freshman midfielder Darius Madison took the ball down the left side of the box and fired a shot that appeared to skip under Steffen. But Steffen — who finished with a game-high five saves — got just enough of his palm on the ball to redirect it off the left post and out.
The Cavaliers halved the deficit when sophomore midfielder Todd Wharton converted a penalty kick created by Terps junior midfielder Dan Metzger's takedown of sophomore forward Marcus Salandy-Defour in the box.
Virginia's best chance at an equalizer came with 2:49 remaining. Madison crossed the ball from the right side of the box to sophomore midfielder Brian James in the middle of the field. But Steffen got enough of his right hand on James' shot from 15 yards away to influence it to stray wide left.
“I read the guy who crossed it,” Steffen said. “I got a quick jump to get over. … I stood my ground, and I dove and made the save.”
Notre Dame midfielder Patrick Hodan scored a goal in each half to power the No. 3-seeded Irish past No. 7 seed New Mexico (14-6-2) in the first semifinal.
The Irish, who suffered their only loss of the season to Virginia on Oct. 26, got all the offense they needed from Hodan, who has scored seven goals in his past six games and at least one in each.
Senior forward Harrison Shipp, the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, assisted on both goals and leads the team in goals (12) and assists (10).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun