COLLEGE PARK -- Everybody at Maryland is pointing fingers this fall.
The coaches say it's the players. The players say it's the administration. The administration says it's the coaches.
No one can agree why Maryland is having its best nonrevenue sports season inschool history. The Terrapins have never placed four teams in the top three of the Atlantic Coast Conference and sent four teams to the NCAA tournament in the same season.
Not until this fall.
The field hockey and men's and women's soccer teams at Maryland have all finished better than fourth in the ACC and qualified for the NCAA tournament. The volleyball team, which took second in the conference tournament and is ranked second in its district, will likely gain an NCAA tournament berth when that field is announced tomorrow.
Combined, the four teams have increased their victory totals by 16 percent from '94.
"It goes back to we hired the right coaches four or five years ago," said Gothard Lane, the assistant athletic director for varsity sports. "It takes a long time to build a program. We believed in these coaches' dreams of building a successful program."
Two of those coaches are Sasho Cirovski in men's soccer and April Heinrichs in women's soccer.
Under Cirovski, in his third year at Maryland, the men's soccer team has gone to the second round of the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 26 years. The men's team plays at James Madison tomorrow in the second round.
In her fifth season as the women's soccer program's only full-time head coach, Heinrichs has turned around the Terps. They went from a 1-28-3 eight-year conference record to runner-up in this season's ACC tournament. On Nov. 18, the women's soccer team won in its first NCAA tournament game; the Terps play at No. 2 Portland today in the national quarterfinals.
It's not coincidental that both soccer programs achieved such success in the first year of Ludwig Field, a new $2.5 million facility.
"I think the stadium hasn't made us play better, but has presented to the community a more professional approach to soccer," Heinrichs said. "It has done a lot to legitimize the men's and women's soccer programs."
The players said the new soccer stadium has a special significance.
"It shows the school believes in us," senior midfielder Michelle Demko said. "It's given us more confidence."
The field hockey and volleyball teams at Maryland have consistently produced winning seasons.
Under eight-year coach Missy Meharg, the field hockey team is a perennial contender for the national title, playing in the NCAA tournament in five of the past six years and winning the crown in 1993. This year the Terps lost in the national championship game to top-ranked North Carolina.
The volleyball team has won more than 18 matches in six of coach Janice Kruger's eight years at Maryland. This season, the volleyball team received its first votes in the national poll and has to wait until tomorrow to see if it receives the second NCAA tournament bid in the program's history.
"I'm 95 percent sure we'll get in," said Kruger, who led the Terps to the national tournament in 1990. "But there's that 5 percent that could destroy us."
That's the new attitude at Maryland. And the good fortune of these four teams has generated a winning atmosphere on campus.
"There's decidedly more spirit here," Kruger said. "It's a better place to be because it's more positive and upbeat. It's like there's not as many things pulling you down as there are pulling you up."
And the positive surroundings reflect in the teams' home records. The Terps' nonrevenue teams have won 85 percent (40-6-1) of their home games, including all three of their NCAA tournament games at home.
"Every year, it's always fun [to watch the games] because the kids enjoy themselves," Lane said. "But this year with the success, every kid on every team has a smile on their face and is really excited."
And their excitement has rubbed off on the coaches.
"There is a great camaraderie between coaches here," Cirovski said. "It's not uncommon that we call . . . and see how the other teams are doing."
The athletes at Maryland form their own type of niche, going out socially and talking during mandated study hall. The teams also attend each other's games.
The main connection is their love of sports, which has intensified with each postseason victory.
"Sometimes we go out and agree: let's not talk about sports," Demko said. "And 10 minutes later, we are talking about sports. As far as sports go at Maryland, it's a pride thing."
A look at the 16 percent rise in victories by Maryland's nonrevenue fall sports, all of which should qualify for NCAA tournaments.
Sport .. .. .. .. 1995 .. ... ..1994
Field hockey .. ..19-5 .. .. .10-9-2
Women's soccer .. 18-5 .. ... 7-10-3
Men's soccer .. ..12-7-1 .. ..14-6-1
Volleyball .. ... 21-9 ... ... 18-13