Sebastian Elney scored in the 29th minute as the 11th-seeded Maryland men’s soccer team beat third-seeded Kentucky, 1-0, to advance to the College Cup for the first time since 2013 on Friday night.
The Terps (11-6-4) are 7-1-1 in their past nine matches. Elney’s goal was enough as the Maryland defense shutdown Kentucky’s high-powered attack. The Terps have not allowed a goal in their past 320 minutes of play.
“For our program, this is a big moment,” Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We struggled the last couple years in the NCAA tournament and we challenged this team to reset the identity and bring back the Maryland quality, and this team has done that. You saw a team tonight that was battle tested and understood the challenge and met it. As a result, we have a chance to keep playing and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
After a tense first 25 minutes, Elney got his goal in the 29th minute. The ball was played in to Paul Bin 25 yards from goal and the junior one touched the ball to Amar Sejdic. Sejdic then played to the streaking Elney, who finished far post from 18 yards away.
“We do it all the time in practice,” Elney said “Amar is a great player. He had a great play there. I knew exactly where to go when he got the ball. He played it perfectly. I just took my touch and let it go far post and it went in and we celebrated like it was the national championship.”
The Terps’ best chance to double the lead came in the 69th minute. Following a corner, sophomore Ben Di Rosa sent in a cross that William James Herve met, but his shot was blocked. The ball fell to Eli Crognale, who shot the ball off the crossbar.
Dayne St. Clair saved the lead in the 78th minute. A Kentucky shot deflected off Johannes Bergmann, Andrew Samuels and Donovan Pines and towards goal before St. Clair made a left-handed reaction save.
“So that ball came from a wide area and it went across, so I was actually shuffling across to get the ball because I didn’t think Andrew [Samuels] would get there,” St. Clair said “Then, in the last moment he just got his toe on it and unfortunately went towards the goal, but I just tried to react and thankfully I blocked it.”
Bergmann, Pines, Di Rosa and Chase Gasper stifled Kentucky’s attack in front of St. Clair the entire night, shutting out the nation’s No. 5 scoring offense. Kentucky was 12-0 at home before Friday, scoring 32 goals and conceding just two at home.
Maryland’s three opening goals in its three NCAA tournament matches have all come on its first shot on goal. Sejdic has a point in all three of Maryland’s NCAA tournament games.
Maryland will face off second-seeded Indiana in next Friday’s College Cup semifinals in Santa Barbara, Calif., at Harder Stadium. The match will be shown on ESPNU with a kickoff time to be decided.