In the aftermath of a loss to Georgetown in the semifinals of last year’s NCAA men’s soccer tournament -- a game that was settled on penalty kicks -- Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski could have been forgiven for his outburst that the team would return to the College Cup next season.
Fortunately for Cirovski, the No. 5-seeded Terps backed up their coach’s promise with a 2-1 upset of No. 4 seed California in Saturday’s quarterfinals, sending the program to its 13th College Cup and eighth during Cirovski’s tenure.
Maryland (16-3-5) will meet No. 8 seed Virginia (13-5-5) in the second semifinal at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., Friday at 7:30 p.m. No. 3 seed Notre Dame (15-1-6) and No. 7 seed New Mexico (14-5-2) will play in the first semifinal at 5 p.m.
“It’s a tremendous source of pride to get to another College Cup,” Cirovski said Monday morning. “At the end of last year’s dramatic loss to Georgetown, I sat at the press conference with [then-junior forward] Patrick Mullins and vowed to be back, and for us to be the only team to return from last year’s College Cup group is a testament to our group and our players.
"Obviously, we got off to a very difficult start this year. We were very young, and we had to overcome a lot of adversity. Finding out that [fifth-year senior defender] Jordan Cyrus was going to be ineligible for the year three days into the preseason because his medical hardship waiver was not approved was a real challenge to this team when you consider that we lost three big-time seniors to the pros and we lost our most experienced player in preseason. Then we started off on a very difficult schedule, and finding a way to come back just shows the culture of this program, and the resiliency and character of this program have come shining through.”
Maryland’s 1-2-2 start may have made Cirovski’s pledge laughable, but the coach said he had no reservations about being so public in his expectations.
“You always have worries about that, but the way we go about it is, we challenge ourselves and push ourselves to be great every year and be a contender every year,” he said. “It’s easy for a program like ours to maybe take the foot off the accelerator and to be happy with the successes we’ve had, but that’s not who I am and that’s not what this program is about. We put our foot on the accelerator and we push hard and we only shoot for the very top. When you do that, you give yourself a chance to reach those goals.”