Thomas Hindle contributed to this report.
Senior defender Chase Gasper hopes to lead the University of Maryland to a College Cup win, starting with their semifinal matchup against Indiana on Friday.
Gasper returns to Southern California as a Terp, after transferring to Maryland from UCLA two years ago due to family reasons. At UCLA, he was extremely versatile, playing left back and midfield.
During his freshman year in 2014, Gasper earned a second team Soccer America All-Freshman selection, as well as a Honorable Mention All Pac-12 selection during his sophomore year.
After redshirting his junior year due to injury, Gasper transferred to the University of Maryland with a wealth of playoff experience and two years of eligibility remaining.
UCLA reached the finals of the College Cup in 2014, Gasper’s freshman year. He scored the winning goal that sent UCLA to the finals of the NCAA Tournament that year, and has been drawing on that experience to help lead the Terps to playoff glory.
“The advice that I’ve given so far is just pretty simple, remember what got you here,” said Gasper. “It is a bigger stage and there are more people watching, nothing changes for us as players and the way we play as a team.”
This season, he has been one of the driving forces behind an extremely successful defense, despite early season injury struggles.
“Chase is a warrior. He makes our team tougher… he gives our team a lot of confidence when he’s on the field,” coach Sasho Cirovski said.
He has also been able to contribute going forward, registering five assists this season from the backline. However, as the tournament drags on and the games become tighter, Gasper understands that defense needs to be his focus.
“During the season, you can be a lot more attacking,” Gasper said. “But, during the tournament you can’t concede any goals, so I’m going in first as a defender and making sure we continue the clean sheets throughout the tournament.”
Gasper’s career has essentially come full-circle. However, Gasper was confident that he would reach this point again when he transferred over to the Maryland.
“Especially with this Maryland team, with the group we have here, it’s a very special team, very talented players,” said Gasper. “I definitely knew all along that we definitely had the potential.”
As the games get bigger, Gasper has noticed a change in atmosphere around the team.
“This week there’s a great energy going throughout the squad. Everyone’s super excited,” Chase said. “We’re getting ready to fly out to Santa Barbara, getting to warmer weather, which is going to be nice, especially to play our semifinal game. Everyone’s really looking forward to it.”
Gasper is looking forward to another experience deep in the tournament, especially in California where he established connections during his three years at UCLA.
“It’s going to be an amazing event. I have friends and family from the East Coast traveling out there, and I’ve already established some friends and family over on the West Coast, so it’s going to be great to see them,” Gasper said.
With playoff experience under his belt, and familiarity with the area, Gasper has become a leader of this Terps’ squad. He’s made an impact off the field, keeping the younger members of the team focused.
“He lives in the moment. He’s a great captain and a great player. We all look up to him as a captain, a player, and a friend,” defender Donovan Pines said.
The game will be at 10:30 p.m. ET on Friday, airing on ESPNU.
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