When the No. 5-seed Maryland men's soccer team welcomes No. 12-seed UC Irvine to Ludwig Field in College Park for Sunday’s third-round NCAA tournament game at 5 p.m., both sides will carry considerable unbeaten streaks into the matchup.
The Terps (14-3-5) have won their past eight games and haven’t lost since Oct. 19, when they fell to Wake Forest, 4-3. The Anteaters (15-4-3) are 8-0-1 in their past nine games and haven’t lost since Oct. 13, when UC Santa Barbara edged them, 2-1. Only Connecticut (12-2-7) has a longer streak, having gone 10-0-6 in its past 16.
“I think you’re looking at two of the hotter teams in the country with us and them,” Terps coach Sasho Cirovski said Friday. “They’re very stingy defensively, a very veteran team, and they’re going to be a handful to break down. And they have some very gifted attacking players. They’re the real deal, and this will be a great test for us, and we’ll need to make sure that we have one of our better performances on Sunday.”
One advantage for the Terps is that they get to play at home, where they are 8-2-1 this season. The Anteaters, meanwhile, have to make a cross-country flight to play on a day with a projected high of 45 degrees and in the Eastern time zone, where they are 1-1-1 this fall.
Could that put UC Irvine at a disadvantage? Cirovski wasn't quite so sure.
“Obviously, it’s been freezing here all week, and Sunday should be one of the better days,” Cirovski said. “I think they’re a tough team, and I don’t think it will be a huge factor. I think there will be decent weather. It’s going to be the execution on the field that determines it.”