COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland soccer forward Taylor Twellman has always demonstrated impeccable timing. Make that almost always.
Two years ago at a national college showcase of club teams, Twellman met Terps coach Sasho Cirovski by bumping into him in the bathroom. Thinking it wasn't the appropriate setting to bring up his interest in Maryland, Twellman decided not to introduce himself.
Their paths crossed again an hour later, however -- this time on the field. With Cirovski looking on, Twellman's agility and workmanlike attitude stole the stage.
"We joke about it now that it must be fate," said Cirovski, who was scouting for the under-17 national team at the time. "It took only 90 seconds for me to realize he was a very special player. Taylor is the best athlete I have ever recruited."
And Twellman has stepped up at the right time again.
Only a freshman, he leads Maryland in goals (16) and scored both of the game-winners in the Terps' two NCAA tournament victories, lifting them to their first appearance in the Elite Eight since 1969. In fact, he has registered the game-clincher in four of Maryland's past five wins.
"I love to work my rear end off, but other than that, I love to be around the goal," said Twellman, a native of St. Louis who is the first Maryland freshman to make first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference in Cirovski's six-year tenure. "Whether it's picking up trash or creating goals, I just love being an option for this team up front."
Except he's never been just an option in the eyes of everyone else.
Whether it was having a professional soccer player for a father, an article about him in Sports Illustrated at the age of 17 or the baggage of being named the high school player of the year to carry around, Twellman has had to live up to quite a lofty reputation.
Yet he doesn't rely on talent alone.
Go 30 minutes early to a Maryland practice, and you'll see Twellman repeatedly finishing off crossing passes from assistant coach Jeff Rohrman.
"With that spotlight, you got to produce," said Twellman, who holds the goal-scoring records for the U.S. under-17 team and Saint Louis University High School. "That's the extra pat on my back for me to get out here early and work harder than I need to."
Watch Twellman during a game and you see constant effort.
If he loses a ball, he'll be the first to chase it down. If his shot is blocked by the goalkeeper, he sprints for the rebound.
"He's very talented, but there's lots of talented strikers that don't work very hard and don't produce," senior midfielder Keith Beach said. "If I send him a good ball, he'll get something out of it. But if I send him a ball a little bit off, he'll still get to it and make something out of it. He just doesn't give up."
Or take a day off.
A couple of months after the soccer season ends, Twellman will be pushing for a starting infield job for the Maryland baseball team. In high school, he played those two sports as well as basketball and football, where he was third-team all-state kicker and punter. And in his spare time, he's a scratch golfer.
L But it's not surprising when considering his family history.
His father, Tim, played soccer for the Minnesota Kicks and Chicago Sting. His grandfather, Jim Delsing, was a member of the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Browns. And his uncle, Jay Delsing, is currently on the PGA Tour.
"When you hear all the war stories, it set a dream for me," Twellman said. "Some kids think it's pressure. I don't look at it that way. I want to be like my dad, like my grandfather and like my uncle."
His athleticism surfaces in his terrific balance, his ability to score right- or left-footed and his high-flying maneuvers around the goal.
As a result, Twellman has produced the third-highest goal total in the ACC this season and the eighth-best single-season effort in school history. But more important, his scoring has won six of the Terps' 15 games this season.
"He's very gifted and has an attribute that I call competitive greatness," Cirovski said. "He understands his role in the team framework. The only thing he enjoys more than scoring is winning."
NCAA soccer quarterfinal
Creighton (16-3-2) at Maryland (15-7)
Site: Ludwig Field, College Park
jTC When: Today, 1 p.m.
Pub Date: 12/05/98