At the tender age of 20, Donovan Pines has yet to experience the full buffet that life has to offer. But on the heels of helping the Maryland men’s soccer team capture the NCAA Division I championship Sunday night, the junior defender has a pretty good idea where that accomplishment ranks.
“I think this is No. 1,” Pines, a Clarksville resident and River Hill graduate, said Monday night. “This is unbelievable. My family’s here, my friends go here, so many people I know are in this area, and I’m so glad I got to bring back something for everyone to cheer about. I’m glad we were able to represent the whole state and college soccer as a whole. So I’m really happy this has happened.”
Pines and the rest of the Terps were welcomed back to campus like kings after their 1-0 win against Akron in Santa Barbara, Calif., brought home the program’s fourth overall title and first since 2008. More than 80 students and fans braved below-freezing temperatures and a brisk wind to greet the bus carrying the team that pulled in front of the Varsity Team House around 8:05 p.m.
The crowd formed a tunnel for coach Sasho Cirovski — who carried the trophy — and the players to walk through from the street to the door of the building. Cirovski thanked the fans for their gesture and then handed the trophy to the students to celebrate and take pictures with it.
“We felt it in Santa Barbara,” Cirovski told the fans of their support for the team. “You’re a part of us. It gives us great joy to share this with you.”
Since the last crown in 2008, the program had advanced to the tournament semifinals in 2012 and the title game in 2013, but came away empty-handed despite fielding what might have been more talented squads.
“You just never know when you’re going to do it,” said Cirovski, who helmed the 2005 and 2008 championship teams. “We’ve had many chances over the last 10 years to win, and you never know which team is going to come through. This year’s team, they don’t quit, and it really makes the failures of the last few years even that much sweeter. When you have to fail and then you stand up and you reach the pinnacle, it’s extra special.”
Maryland was anchored by a defense that did not surrender a goal in 450 minutes to postseason play. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair said the defensive effort was a full-team emphasis.
“Being a pressing team, from front to back, a lot of guys were talking about they just normally score on other teams,” he said. “But for our team, we defended a lot, and it just showed our connectiveness and our commitment to defending and coming home with the trophy.”
The team’s reward is a frontal assault of exams and papers as the university is at the start of finals week. But Pines said the memory of the season’s achievement will not fade away quickly.
“This is the best thing that’s happened, and I’m glad it’s with these boys,” he said. “They’re my brothers, and we worked hard every day — day in and day out — and got the job done, and we won something. So it’s great.”