A year after stumbling into the postseason, Maryland men’s soccer is optimistic and tested entering the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
The Terps start their journey into their 18th consecutive NCAA Tournament this Sunday, coming off of a nine-day break after losing to Indiana in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament last Friday.
The Terps (8-6-4, 4-4) are ranked 12th in the country in the NCAA RPI rankings, a factor that helped them secure the No. 11 seed for the postseason.
Despite a rocky regular season, the team is confident with Sunday’s test. According to head coach Sasho Cirovski, the mindset of this year’s team is better than that of last year going into tournament play, when the Terps’ end of season collapse ended with a penalty shootout loss to Albany in the first round.
Last year, Maryland lost its final five matches and scored just two goals entering the postseason. This campaign, they’ve won four of their last six.
Although the offense has been slow recently, the defense has compensated with incredible form. The Terps have conceded less than a goal per game over the last six games.
“We’re built tough right now and I think we’ll be prepared for Sunday’s challenge,” Cirovski said.
On Sunday, Maryland will face North Carolina State University, who defeated Campbell University in the first round on Thursday.
“We’re scouting both opponents. Obviously we’ll watch both very close, watch the game very closely on Thursday. As is the case all year, our focus is to make sure we’re prepared,” said Cirovski. “It’s about being crisp and sharp and confident no matter who you play.”
NC State boasts a 9-6-3 overall record, one more win than the Terps. However, the Wolfpack has underperformed in conference play this year, winning only two of eight games. They are coming off of a 2-0 loss to No. 1 Wake Forest before winning their first round playoff match.
The Terps have suffered from a multitude of injuries this year, including a nagging leg injury to senior left back Chase Gasper. Despite the numerous knocks, Cirovski remains positive.
“Through that adversity, we’ve been able to build a lot of confidence in a lot of players…I feel like we’ve become better through the adversity and illnesses and injuries that we’ve had throughout the year,” Cirovski said.
With the early-season and injury struggles behind them, the team is ready to perform and impress the home crowd for the first game of the tournament at Ludwig Field.
“It’s [also] great that we’ll have the chance to see our great fans, the crew and our community support for at least one more time this Sunday. So we’re hoping to get a really nice crowd to support this group of young men.”
Amar Sejdic, the team’s leading scorer with five goals and one of three team captains, is unworried about the target on their back after earning a first round bye.
“I guarantee that we surprised a lot of teams based on how we’re No. 11, but when you see the type of players we have in the system then it shouldn’t be a surprise because we’re capable of beating anybody,” Sedjic said.
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