As former players for Maryland, Michael Dello-Russo and Will Swaim understand what it's like to be part of a program where anything short of competing for a national championship can be viewed as a failure.
Dello-Russo and Swaim, both from Howard County, are now assistants for Terrapins head coach Sasho Cirovski and have become mentors, instructors and sometimes sounding boards for the current crop of players. Maryland (18-1-2) heads into the third round of the NCAA men's soccer tournament Sunday, playing host to a surging Coastal Carolina (20-2-2) team, and both Swaim and Dello-Russo are confident the Terps are ready to continue their own impressive run.
"We've had a great season so far," Dello-Russo said. "We told our boys, no matter what, you've been one of the best teams in Maryland history this year. But they're still worried because there's pressure that it only matters what they do now because it's the NCAA tournament. So, I know players feel it when they come here. But there are also players that thrive on that and those are the types of players we look for. That's why we had success in my years, because we had a lot of players who liked that kind of pressure."
Cirovski has known Dello-Russo since he was 12. After graduating from Wilde Lake, Dello-Russo became a center back for Maryland from 2001-2005, was a two-time captain and helped lead the Terps to the national championship in 2005. Swaim, a goalkeeper from attended Howard High School, was part of the Terps' 2008 national championship team and finished his career with a 24-9-5 record and 12 shutouts.
"Michael is a pillar of the program," Cirovski said. "He was made to be a coach and has been just a great addition. Michael really adds a sense of pride to the program. He's also been a great recruiter because he has been so passionate about this place.
"Will is a lot like Michael in that he loves this place. He's taken great ownership in the program. He's been extremely helpful and connects with the players."
With national championships under their belts, both Dello-Russo and Swaim cam identify with the current players, who enjoyed one of the most successful regular seasons in program history. Maryland beat Brown, 2-1, last week in the second round of the tournament.
"I think all of the coaches do a good job in telling the players there is no perfect formula for success," Swaim said. "It's a huge learning process. You just have to take it day by day in getting better. The pressure is good to keep them focused. But's important not to paralyze them. It's important to let them know it's a learning process and we're all going to get through this together."
Coastal Carolina is a dangerous team and knocked out Atlantic Coast Conference power Wake Forest, 2-1 in overtime, in the second round of the NCAA tourney. The Chanticleers had 14 players earn All-Big South honors, including Ashton Bennett (Attacking Player of the Year) and Kjartan Sigurdsson (Defensive Player of the Year). Shaun Docking was named Big South Coach of the Year
Maryland knows it faces a big challenge.
"We have a huge bulls eye on our back," Swaim said. "Everybody knows it."