The Maryland men’s soccer team (1-2-2, 0-0 Big Ten) took on the West Virginia Mountaineers (2-2, MAC 0-0) on Monday night for their ninth matchup all time. The Terrapins not only broke their season-opening 400-minute scoring drought, but they also came out on top with a final score of 1-0.
“I’m just extremely happy for our team tonight,” Coach Sasho Cirovski stated. “We’ve played probably the hardest four games of anybody in the country,”
The first half was played evenly on both sides, though Maryland made visible improvements on the offensive end. In previous games, Maryland has struggled to not only score, but even show any signs of threatening to score. Most of the Terrapins’ veteran players have not been able to find their rhythm.
Perhaps the unsung heroes of the game were the freshmen and their ability to step up. Maryland started three first-year players, as forwards Justin Gielen and William James Herve along with defender Brett St. Martin cracked the starting lineup. Gielen and Herve both took the spots of Paul Bin and DJ Reeves, who substituted in for them late in the first half. Though they all combined for 3 shot attempts, their defense and hustle were apparent. All freshmen made their presence felt, pressuring the WVU backline and goalkeeper Steven Tekesky.
Tekesky struggled on multiple goal kicks in which he tried to play it on the ground. The first instance was when Tekesky took too long to punt the ball, in which a fiery Gielen leaped in the air to block the kick. The ball soared out of bounds, but the possibility to have an open goal and opportunity to score was not lost on the crowd who sighed in unison.
Another similar mistake occurred when Tekesky took a couple dribbles in preparing for a goal kick when Gielen came out of nowhere and broke it up, but the WVU defense recovered quickly to swarm him and prevent a goal.
Maryland goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair also had some scares. One came when West Virginia senior Rushawn Larmond had a one-on-one play with St. Martin and got a powerful but low shot off, causing St. Clair to make a sprawling block. He finished with six saves.
The chances didn’t stop for both teams in the second half. The momentum constantly shifted between both the Terps and the Mountaineers. Key chances include two shots by Maryland, both right at the top of the box by senior Amar Sejdic who sent it high both times.
But the triumphant moment came with 13:32 left in the game, when senior Chase Gasper sent in a cross towards the center of the box. Sejdic, the Kentucky native, leaped in the air and seemingly jumped too early, only for his body to turn and have the ball bounce off of his back and then bounce off the hands of Tekesky, causing it to sail into the upper left corner of the goal. The goal was credited to Sejdic. Ludwig Field went wild, despite the mid-week turnout not living up to its usual atmosphere.
“Ecstatic,” Amar Sejdic said when asked about getting the Terps first goal of the season. “I’m just happy, I saw Chase make that run, whip the ball in and I just put my body between the ball and the guy and it went in,”
Maryland finished with 10 shots, with five being on goal in comparison to West Virginia’s 12 shot attempts, with six being on goal. The shot differential offered a noticeable improvement by the previous games where they barely had any shots on goal.
“We know that we’re better than we’ve been performing,” Sejdic added. “Tonight showed a lot of humility,”
Maryland finally gets more of a break before their next game. They head into conference play this Friday when they travel to Evanston, Illinois, to take on Northwestern at 8 p.m. Though the team and fans can breathe a sigh of relief, there still is work that needs to be done on both ends.
“We’re still a work in progress, we’re playing some really good teams,” Cirovski added “Sometimes things just click and then start to flow– we’re still waiting for that but tonight was a positive start.”