Maryland reaches final 4

The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK - Maryland men's soccer coach Sasho Cirovski knew before the season that he had the right mix of players to make a run at the program's second national title in four years.

The Terps had the country's top recruiting class and a solid nucleus of 18 returning lettermen. Yesterday, sophomore Rodney Wallace moved second seed Maryland closer to its goal with a first-half header that proved to be the game-winner in a 1-0 victory over seventh seed Creighton in the NCAA quarterfinals.

The Terps have won 14 consecutive games and have broken a program record for victories with 21. Maryland travels to Frisco, Texas, to play St. John's in the semifinals Friday.

"This is one of the greatest seasons in the history of Maryland soccer," Cirovski said. "I think this group has not received its due respect, I believe, for what they have accomplished. No team in the last four years has lost some players to the pro ranks so early than we have. There was a question of whether we could recover so quickly. I think our players took that challenge to heart and have shown we have incredible quality in our team."

The Bluejays (16-2-2) entered the game on a 15-game unbeaten streak - their longest since 1993 - but had trouble matching up with Maryland's talented midfielders. Maryland controlled most of the first half and took the lead in the 23rd minute when Wallace scored his third goal of the season off a free kick from Michael Marchiano (McDonogh).

"We have been working on set pieces the whole year. Basically, that is one of our strengths right now," Wallace said. "We have players who can serve the ball well and players who can finish. I just headed it into the net."

Maryland (21-3) nearly added an insurance goal in the final 15 minutes of the half off a close-range header by Jeremy Hall that Creighton goalkeeper Brian Holt reflexively tipped over the bar. A shot by Terps freshman Casey Townsend skidded just wide of the far post with 10 minutes left in the half.

Maryland outshot Creighton 11-2 in the first half and 17-5 for the game. The Terps also had 15 corner kicks, compared with one for the Bluejays.

"That's probably the most we have been outplayed in any match the last decade," Creighton coach Bob Warming said. "They did a terrific job organizationally with team defending. We had no time on the ball. It's all a credit to them."

Maryland's Omar Gonzalez had a header in the 80th minute that hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced away from the goal. After that miss, though, the Bluejays could not put together another meaningful attack as a light snow began to fall.

"This team is actually eerily similar to the 2005 team," said Graham Zusi, who also played on Maryland's 2005 national championship team. "We do have our own little swagger."

Goals: M-Wallace. Assists: M-Marchiano

Saves: C-Holt 6; M-MacMath 2. Half: M: 1-0


Friday's semifinals at Frisco, Texas:

* Maryland (21-3) vs. St. John's (19-2-3), 5:30 or 8 p.m.

* North Carolina (14-7-1) vs. Wake Forest (23-1-1), 5:30 or 8 p.m.

Next Sunday's championship at Frisco, Texas: teams TBA, 1 p.m.

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