Whether it's a hard shot to the corner, a soaring header in front of the goal or a slide step past a defender for an open 20-yard blast, Maryland soccer forward Shane Dougherty is a finisher.
Dougherty, a senior and a former Sun All-Metro Player of the Year from Fallston, leads the Terps in goals (15) and game-winning goals (four) and has scored or assisted on nearly half of Maryland's goals this season. He also ranks second in school history in career assists (21) and career points (97).
But Dougherty still has one goal left to finish: winning a national championship.
Maryland (14-5-3) could take a significant step in that direction today when it plays host to William and Mary in the second round of the NCAA Division I men's tournament. The Terps are looking to advance to the national quarterfinals for the first time in 27 years.
"It's very difficult to recognize his value; he's priceless," said coach Sasho Cirovski, who is in his fourth year at Maryland. "I'm really going to miss him."
When Cirovski came to Maryland in 1993, he inherited a 5-12 team and a program that hadn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1986. The Terps had one winning record in the Atlantic Coast Conference in two decades and garnered a reputation of not recruiting players in this area.
That all changed in February 1993.
A few days after being hired as coach, Cirovski called Dougherty, who had narrowed his college choices to Syracuse and James Madison. After Dougherty agreed to talk, Cirovski immediately drove an hour in a snowstorm and spoke with Dougherty for four hours to try to persuade him to play for Maryland.
A few months later, Dougherty agreed to come to Maryland and formed the first part of a winning foundation.
In Dougherty's first year, the Terps were 3-14-1 -- the most losses in the program's history. Maryland since has won an NCAA tournament game three straight seasons -- a first for the school -- and is one victory away from tying the school record for wins.
"I think it's a special feeling to have an opportunity to come into a place with not a great record and to leave the program with the record much better," Dougherty said. "Sasho is a great recruiter, but I definitely like to think that getting me was a step in the right direction."
Dougherty was the first Parade All-American to wear a Maryland men's soccer uniform. These days the Terps' uniform is being worn by national All-Americans, state players of the year and even national players of the year.
"It was huge signing Shane," Cirovski said. "Maryland had a habit of not getting or even recruiting the best players in Maryland. It gave us instant credibility to go after the best players."
These talented young players look up to Dougherty, one of only four seniors on the team.
It might be a glance. Or a pat on the back. Anything to encourage winning.
And no one questions Dougherty's desire to win. Just watch an intrasquad scrimmage and see whose team wins nine out of 10 times.
So when the Terps started this season at 4-4-2, Dougherty decided to seize control. Faced with a disastrous season to end his college career, he started becoming more vocal, creating a fire under a stagnant team.
"When we needed that run at the end of the year, Shane stepped up to a new level and became an emotional leader," Cirovski said. "It's not his game, but he's at a different stage right now."
It was a big turnaround from his junior year.
As a sophomore, Dougherty emerged as a legitimate scoring threat with 17 goals, the fifth-best single-season performance at Maryland. A season later, Dougherty's production dropped off by 12 goals.
It was a combination of being the top target for most defenses and a drop-off in training.
"I really had it in the back of my mind to be better than last year," Dougherty said. "I was just not as fit. I made a commitment to me and my team to improve."
Dougherty did more than improve. He has almost
single-handedly carried Maryland the last part of the season.
The Terps have won five straight and are 10-1-1 in their past 12 matches, including their first ACC tournament championship. Not coincidentally, Dougherty has scored in each of those five consecutive victories and got 10 of his 14 goals this season in that 12-game span.
He also ended the regular season by scoring the game-winning goal in the Terps' last three wins.
"He's a special kid," Cirovski said. "Ask for something and you get it. You look at him and it's done. I think that it's just part of his personality."
Year ..... G ..... A ... GW*
1993 ..... 1 ..... 4 ... 0
1994 ..... 17 .... 4 ... 4
1995 ..... 5 ..... 7 ... 1
1996 ..... 15 .... 6 ... 4
Totals ... 38 .... 21 .. 9
* -- Game-winning goals
Pub Date: 12/01/96