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Slumping Terps soccer to play Albany in NCAA tournament opener Thursday

One of the strangest Maryland men’s soccer seasons in the program’s hallowed history will continue for at least one more game.

The Terps (10-5-3), a preseason College Cup favorite who have lost five straight games for the first time since 1993, coach Sasho Cirovski’s first season in College Park, will host America East Conference champion Albany (14-4-2) in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday. The winner will advance to the second round Sunday to face host and No. 10 seed Western Michigan, which received a bye in the 48-team tournament field unveiled Monday.

Maryland last failed to earn a top-16 seed in 2009, when it upset No. 7 seed Penn State and No. 10 seed Harvard before falling to eventual national champion Virginia in the quarterfinals. The Terps have twice lost in the first weekend over the past three years, falling to Providence as a No. 1 seed last season in an improbable collapse and to UMBC as a No. 4 seed in 2014.

Those upsets, and this season’s downturn, have Maryland on the verge of program infamy. The team’s group of fourth-year seniors, including captain and defender George Campbell (McDonogh), could become the first since 1997 not to appear in at least one College Cup, the sport’s final four. The Terps last appeared in the national semifinals in 2013 and last won an NCAA title in 2008.

For the first month and a half this season, Maryland looked like a good bet to make a deep tournament run. After a 5-4 win in mid-October at Wisconsin, the Terps were 10-0-3 and ranked No. 3 nationally. Then came a 1-0 loss to visiting Georgetown, ending a 30-game regular-season unbeaten streak. The bottom fell out soon after consecutive losses to Coastal Carolina (1-0), Virginia Commonwealth (3-0), Michigan (2-1) and Wisconsin (2-1), all NCAA tournament teams.

The loss to the Badgers, Maryland’s first Big Ten Conference tournament defeat after three straight league titles, means the Terps last played Nov. 5. They are unranked for the first time since November 2015.

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