COLLEGE PARK -- Celebrating the greatest high in his coaching career, Maryland's Sasho Cirovski emphatically waved the state flag, basking in the glory in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 3,123. Moments later, Cirovski's 2-year-old daughter interrupted him by walking out on the field and asking her father to change her diaper.
It was that sort of a day.
Charging out to a three-goal lead, the Terrapins started the Final Four party a little early before having to sweat out the final 15 1/2 minutes and stave off Creighton for a 3-2 victory in an NCAA quarterfinal game yesterday at Ludwig Field.
Maryland (16-7), which tied the school record for wins in a season, advances to the national semifinals for the first time since 1969. The unseeded Terps will play Friday in Richmond, Va., against the winner of today's No. 2 Virginia-Stanford contest.
"It's incredible," Cirovski said. "This is an unbelievable moment in our history. It's what we have worked so extremely hard for since I arrived here. The feeling is really indescribable. We went through a whole realm of emotions in that game."
The first emotion was confidence, as Maryland dictated play and assumed total control after Beckett Hollenbach's header gave the Terps a 3-0 lead with 18: 06 left to play. That led to jubilation and some sloppy play, giving an opening to Creighton, which had taken just one shot at that point.
The Bluejays (16-4-2), who had beaten two of last year's Final Four teams to reach the quarterfinals including defending champion UCLA last week, scored on close-range goals by Brian Mullan and David Wright in a nine-minute span to cut their deficit to 3-2 with 6: 31 remaining.
Creighton continued to press, putting two perimeter shots on goal in the final three minutes, both of which were saved by Maryland goalkeeper Christian Lewis.
The Bluejays' last chance came with 22 seconds left, when Marc Madeley sent a free kick from midfield to the left post. Lewis pulled the shot in despite a collision with David Wright, which led to a 20-player confrontation in front of the goal and a yellow card on Wright.
"We had to play a great game, and I thought for the most part, we did," Cirovski said. "It wasn't that we played poorly at the end. It was that Creighton played their game and put the pressure on. I thought they did everything to score those goals."
The Terps took charge from the onset on a spectacular goal by Steve Armas 18: 18 into the game. Controlling a pass near midfield, Armas took one touch before floating a 45-yard shot over a backpedaling goalkeeper Tom Zawislan.
"Earlier in the game, I was trying to flick through balls to our forwards," Armas said of his fourth goal of the season. "I saw that the goalie had been cheating a bit. From my angle, it looked like the goalie was maybe at the 18-yard line and I just felt like I should do it."
Maryland pushed its advantage to 2-0 with 6: 20 left in the first half, when Kirk Miller chipped a delicate crossing pass across the goal mouth to Pierre Venditti, who headed it in off a headlong dive.
But the Terps' athletic showcase wasn't done. Midway through the second half, Taylor Twellman flicked a lining free kick off his head to Hollenbach, who in turn headed it into the left corner of the goal.
That provoked a tense-filled stretch of six Creighton shots in 15 1/2 minutes, which was capped by a collective sigh of relief from Maryland at the final horn.
FTC "The past three years I've been here, it's hurt so much to lose in the second round," Armas said. "I can recall those three instances I've been sitting there, crying my eyes out and thinking what if we would have made it to the next rounds. But we're here now."
Now is the Final Four, where Maryland has been five times before in the program's 45-year history. But the Terps have a higher goal in mind -- their first outright national championship.
"We've had some great times but we've also shed some tears over the past four years," Cirovski said. "This is a great moment in our history, but it's not complete."
Pub Date: 12/06/98