By Tim Ryan
With just more than four minutes left to play in 1-1 tie with Indiana, Maryland Terrapins junior midfielder Mael Corboz lined up a free kick at the top of the box, Big Ten Tournament Championship on the line.
Corboz told fellow midfielder Tsubasa Endoh he wanted to take the kick. He felt confident, and Endoh defers to him in such situations, Corboz said.
Corboz’s intuition turned out to be correct, as he fired the free kick past Indiana keeper Colin Webb and into the top left corner of the net, giving the Terps a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish on the way to the school’s first Big Ten Tournament title.
“I’m just so happy for these guys,” Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “To win three years in a row now – conference, regular season and tournament championships – particularly after where we were October the fourth of this year. Our guys had to dig deep to bring their championship caliber out of them.”
As soon as the ball found the back of the net Corboz ran to the bleachers behind the Indiana goal, where The Crew – Maryland soccer’s student section – was waiting for him.
“To be honest, I had no idea what to do,” Corboz said. “I just saw The Crew and I ran to them.”
It was a physical match throughout, especially as time wound down after Indiana’s equalizer with 27 minutes to play.
The game kicked off less than 36 hours after Maryland’s semi-final match against Michigan State, a game that went to double overtime and eventually penalty kicks.
“From the start, Indiana came flying,” Corboz said. “I know for me and Metzger in the middle it was super tight, there were tackles coming in everywhere and we were fighting through some heavy legs.”
Maryland opened the scoring with just more than four minutes to play before halftime on freshman defender Christoffer Wallander-Ianev’s first career goal.
“Championship moments bring up the unexpected, and really today we saw a couple of those moments,” Cirovski said.
The Terps held onto the lead despite an aggressive Indiana attack until the 63rd minute, when an own goal tied the game for the Hoosiers.
Junior forward Andrew Oliver dribbled the ball into the box for Indiana, and though he couldn’t get a shot by one of the several Maryland defenders near him, a Maryland clearance attempt bounced off a friendly defender and into the net.
The physical play continued, and it eventually gave Maryland the free kick that clinched the game and the championship.
On the play, junior forward David Kabelik played a through ball just ahead of freshman forward Jeroen Meefout, who had one defender to beat to have a chance at a goal.
The defender made contact with Meefout who fell and drew the free kick.
“I know that any foul around the 18 for me or Tsubasa is a good chance to score,” Corboz said. “That foul was no different. I didn’t really think about the circumstances really, I just focused on hitting the ball the way I wanted to.”
“I was just praying it was on target,” Cirovski added.
The win was Maryland’s 11th consecutive, with the Terps’ last loss coming more than a month ago at Northwestern. Maryland clinched the Big Ten regular season championship on Nov. 5.
“We had a tough start this year,” Cirovski said. “And we had some real, tough, honest conversations, and we challenged them and they’ve responded well and we’re ready for the first game of the NCAA tournament.”
The Terps will look to start another deep run in the NCAA tournament on Thursday.