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Terps soccer's once-promising season ends with loss to Albany in PK shootout

The Maryland men’s soccer team’s season started with a 13-game unbeaten streak and very real dreams of its first College Cup appearance since 2013.

On Thursday night, it ended in the first round of the NCAA tournament with a sixth straight home defeat, no goals and so many questions about what went wrong. The Terps’ 6-5 penalty-kick loss to Albany after 110 scoreless minutes of regulation and overtime at Ludwig Field marked the earliest postseason exit since 1999 for what was one of the nation’s highest-rated teams this preseason.

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Maryland, whose last win came over a month ago, at Wisconsin on Oct. 13, also failed to make it out of the 48-team tournament’s first weekend last year, when visiting Providence upset the top-seeded and still-unbeaten Terps in the second round after Maryland received a first-round bye. With an Elite Eight loss in 2015 and another second-round upset in 2014, this season’s group of seniors is the first at the school since 1997 never to reach the national semifinals in its career.

For much of Thursday, the Terps (10-5-4), not the America East Conference champion Great Danes (15-4-2), looked like the team more likely to face No. 10 seed Western Michigan in the second round Sunday. Dominating possession early and disrupting counterattacks easily, Maryland twice came close to scoring just its third goal over the past six games. But forward Gordon Wild and midfielder Jake Rozhansky’s attempts on goal didn’t find the net.

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The Terps continued to threaten after halftime — forward DJ Reeves had a point-blank shot and midfielder Eryk Williamson got a good look inside the box — but Albany goalkeeper Danny Vitiello made the statistical advantage moot. He finished with eight saves overall; the Great Danes managed just half that number of attempts against Maryland.

One of them nearly ended the game in the first overtime. After a poor clear, Albany midfielder Andreas Assiotis cut back against a disorganized Terps defense and found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair near the corner of the 6-yard box. St. Clair never budged, and Assiotis’ shot caromed off the goalie and out of bounds.

Maryland faces Albany at Ludwig Field on Thursday night in the first round.

Maryland pressed in overtime but never came as close to the golden goal. In the shootout that followed, the Terps’ misses were symbolic of what the team itself had been missing. Wild, the Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Year last season and a goal-starved striker this fall, took and missed the first strike. Defender Chase Gasper, whose absence due to a groin injury coincided with Maryland’s five-game losing streak entering Thursday, knocked his attempt off the crossbar. Forward Sebastian Elney, who along with Wild struggled to link up with a disappointing midfield for much of the season, sent his eighth-round shot over the goal.

After Albany’s Brynjar Steinþórsson beat St. Clair moments later for the game-winning penalty kick, the Terps stood and watched another team celebrate on their home field for the final time this season.

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