From three wins to the first NCAA tournament victory in 25 years. Now that's progress.
And Sasho Cirovski, the men's soccer coach at the University of Maryland, doesn't expect it to stop there. His squad, which surprised nearly everyone by going 14-6-1 a year ago and defeating Georgetown to reach the second round of the tournament, is ranked No. 5 nationally and has eight quality starters returning. Among them are junior goalkeeper Russell Payne, who posted eight shutouts and was named second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference, and junior striker Shane Dougherty (17 goals), also second-team All-ACC.
The defense, which allowed 30 goals last season, returns one full-time starter, sophomore R. T. Moore. Another player, Chris Preheim, appeared in all 21 games. Leo Cullen moves from midfield to sweeper.
The midfield is talented, experienced and explosive. It's anchored by senior co-captains Tod Herskovitz (eight goals, eight assists) and Doug Smith (three goals, seven assists). Herskovitz was first-team All-ACC and All-South Atlantic Region, and honorable mention All-American. Smith, in his first season at Maryland, scored two game-winning goals.
Adding to Cirovski's enthusiasm is what many people at Maryland consider the most talented freshman class in the program's history.
A rundown of other area teams:
In 1992, the Greyhounds had one of the best recruiting classes in college soccer, and since then, they've gone 50-12-4, won three Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championships and qualified for the NCAA tournament in 1993. The players who entered Loyola then are seniors now, but questions abound. Can the Greyhounds, 15-5-2 last year, replace two-time All-America goalkeeper Zach Thornton and leading scorers Bill Wnek and Doug Willey, who combined for 63 points? Loyola has a proven goalkeeper in junior transfer Joe Schafer, who helped Lynn University to consecutive appearances in the NAIA tournament semifinals and played on the Countryside Lightning team that won the under-19 national title during the summer. Seven starters are back, including All-South Atlantic Region members Marc Harrison (seven goals, nine assists) and David Briles, both midfielders, and defender Chris Doyle. Briles was a member of the gold-medal-winning East team at this summer's U.S. Olympic Festival. Bill Heiser (eight goals, four assists) returns at forward, and he's joined by junior transfer D. G. Lewis, a member of Hartwick's 1993 quarterfinalist.
The Retrievers enjoyed their fourth consecutive winning season, going 9-8-1, but the year was filled with adversity. Midfielder J. J. Kremer, the most prolific scorer in UMBC's Division I history, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game. By the 12th game, only five players who started the opener were in the lineup. UMBC went through a six-game winless stretch during the middle of the season, but won its last four. Ten starters are back, but the only seniors are forward Bryan Bugarin (12 goals, two assists), fullback Anthony Adams and midfielder Jorge Stecco. Sophomore forward/midfielder Ted Lawler (five goals, four assists) came on strong late last year. The midfield is deep with six returning players, including junior Derek Phillips (four goals, seven assists). Junior goalkeeper C. J. Norton posted five shutouts.
The Tigers have left the Big South Conference, and they hope the switch to the North Atlantic will change their luck. They are coming off back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1987, but coach Frank Olszewski likes this year's team despite its youth. As many as six freshmen started at the same time last season, but three seniors should lead the way: forward Todd Hicks (five goals, six assists), defender Erik Washington and midfielder Chris Smith. Hicks and Washington were first-team All-Big South. Sophomore goalkeeper Mike Stillman had six shutouts. Midfielder Pete Medd is sitting out this season after knee surgery.
The Midshipmen barely missed the Patriot League playoffs and expect to be at or near the top of the standings this season. Navy has 15 players back, and the forward position is especially strong with senior P. K. Kennedy, juniors Justin Lemmon (five goals, six assists), Shawn Moyer (five goals, five assists) and Aaron Swenson (seven goals, two assists) and sophomore Mike Curtis.
The Mount advanced to last year's Northeast Conference final behind new coach Mark Mettrick, and rival coaches are picking it to finish second behind Robert Morris. Senior midfielder Matt Gannon returns after scoring six goals last season. Also, the Mount welcomed back the conference's top goaltender, senior Keith Kennedy, who allowed just 16 goals.
The Hawks were 2-14 last season. Six starters return for coach Sam Douglas, who is 3-56-2 in four years. To improve, the Hawks will need good seasons from, among others, freshman keeper Phillip Thompson, senior midfielder Fitzgerald Williams and junior midfielder Kimandi Binns.
* Johns Hopkins -- The Blue Jays are ranked ninth in Division III, and here's why: They are coming off their most successful season, going 17-3-3 and advancing to the Division III final, upsetting three higher-ranked opponents along the way. And they return a veteran team. Sophomore Eric West had a school-record 22 goals and five assists last year and was named Centennial Conference Player of the Year and third-team All-American. Hopkins has an experienced group of midfielders, including seniors Jared Lawrence (five goals, three assists) and TTC David Morro (three goals, two assists). A new goalkeeper will be aided by All-South Region sweeper Peter Kahn.
* Salisbury State -- The past three seasons have been the most successful in the 59-year history of Salisbury soccer. Among the 1994 highlights: a 12-3-3 record, Capital Athletic Conference regular-season championship, a nine-game unbeaten streak and a school-record 54 goals and 10 shutouts. The top returnees are junior midfielder Matt Tirschman (nine goals, six assists, first-team All-CAC), senior forward Willie Morris (seven goals, five assists), junior back Tom Sabia and sophomore forward Shawn Collins (seven goals, two assists).
* Frostburg State -- Last season the Bobcats went 7-10-1. Coach Jay Hegeman returns 10 members of last year's team, including six starters. One of the most prominent is sophomore goalkeeper Adam Messer, who allowed 1.66 goals a game. Juniors Ben Sipola and Stuart Vazzana rejoin sophomores Jeff Withers and Jason Kilby on defense, but the offense is without its top four scorers.
* Goucher -- The Gophers went 7-10-1 last year, losing to Catholic by two goals in the quarterfinals of the Capital Athletic Conference tournament. They have a new coach in Jim Lyons, and talented seniors such as midfielder David DiAngelo, forward Chris Walton (five goals, four assists) and backs Ian Dillner (second-team All-CAC) and Jim St. Jean. Sophomore forward Radcliffe Roye was Goucher's second-leading scorer last year with 10 goals and four assists. Goucher also has some holes to fill. Among the departed are four-time All-CAC pick Percy Moore, who registered a school-record 54 goals and added 25 assists during his career, Pat Prendergrast, another four-time All-CAC selection, and Steve Montgomery, whose career included 33 goals and a school-record 47 assists.
* Western Maryland -- The Green Terror went 4-12-2 last year after starting 3-1-1. This season, Western Maryland got off to its first 3-0 start since 1956, despite losing four-year starting goalkeeper Matt St. Jean, as well as players who scored 15 of its 28 goals. The Green Terror, which was shut out seven times last year, returns sophomore Christiaan Abildso (six goals, three assists) and junior Rick Estes (three goals, two assists).
* Washington College -- The Shoremen have improved in depth and victories the past three seasons after being 1-13-1 in 1991. Last year, they had their first winning season since 1979, going 8-7-4. Eight starters return, but goalkeeper Greg Miller (school-record nine shutouts) is gone. The defense is anchored by senior Chip Helm (one goal, four assists). Other key returnees include senior midfielders Brian Rush and Yoseph Bekele, junior midfielder Andrew King (five goals, four assists) and sophomore midfielders Erik Dahlen (three goals, two assists) and Chris Daily (two goals, three assists).
* Villa Julie -- The Mustangs were a club team until last year, when they went 5-6-1. They could be even better this year with the return of junior fullback Douglas Bair, senior fullback/halfback Jeffrey Vogel and sophomore halfback/forward Michael Hemelt. Vogel was the team's most valuable player, and Hemelt was its leading scorer. There are nine freshmen, including keeper John Maszon.
* St. Mary's -- Alumnus Jesse Roberts takes over as coach, trying to improve on last year's 7-6-2 record. St. Mary's returns two crucial players: striker/midfielder John McManus, the school's all-time leading scorer and an All-CAC selection, and defender Jeff Sack.