COLLEGE PARK -- Don't call Maryland midfielder Tod Herskovitz an eccentric -- even though he is.
Heading off to college as a freshman, he flew halfway across the country with only a gym bag draped over a shoulder and a toothbrush in hand.
In a conversation with Herskovitz, he'll regularly analyze Shakespeare or politics, and use such words as expediential and existential. And by the way, he spells his first name Tod because, he says, "Only one 'd' is pronounced."
"He's probably the closest I've come to a player I coached," said Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski of his first recruit. "But it's not a typical conversation when you talk to Tod. It's nothing superficial. It's just whatever he says is always so very insightful."
Herskovitz, the Terrapins' leading scorer who is trying to become their first All-American in 19 years, will lead Maryland against Penn State tomorrow in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Ludwig Field. The Terps are making their first back-to-back appearances in the tournament in 24 years.
One of the main reasons for Maryland's national prominence occurred as a result of an insight by Cirovski five years ago. In his first year of coaching at the University of Hartford, Cirovski offered a Division I scholarship to a raw and unheralded Herskovitz, a Minnesotan who had received only Division III offers.
Herskovitz immediately proved Cirovski's estimation of his talent correct, winning the North Atlantic Conference Rookie of the Year award and being named to the first-team, all-conference squad as a sophomore. Then Cirovski announced he had accepted the coaching position at Maryland.
"That was a pretty confusing time," Herskovitz said. "I had friends and soccer [at Hartford]. When Sash said he was leaving, I was losing half of what I had."
Herskovitz, who had to sit out a year when he transferred, hasn't faltered with the Terps, having been named a first-team all-star in the Atlantic Coast Conference, perhaps the nation's top soccer conference. But his rise from prospect to All-American did not come without an unusual chain of injuries.
In his junior season, Herskovitz missed the final five weeks of the season after breaking his ankle Oct. 19. One year and a day later, he severely injured his knee and missed four games.
Nevertheless, in his two shortened seasons he has cracked Maryland's top 15 list in career assists (11) and points (43). Herskovitz also was a finalist for the Missouri Athletic Club Sports Foundation's Collegiate Soccer Player of the Year award.
"He's the most dangerous attacking player that Maryland has had in a long time," Virginia coach Bruce Arena said. "He's a very active player and finds ways to score. He's not the classic midfielder."
In other words, he's unorthodox.
"I can't stand when people say that the way I play is unorthodox," Herskovitz said. "I feel people sell me short because of that. I'm grateful to Sash for allowing me to play that way. I just find ways to win games."
Said Cirovski: "Tod's a player who goes out and plays like his strong personality. I think to do well in the tournament you need a special player or two. I think Tod is clearly one of our special players. I just love him and will miss him."