By Emily Olsen
It took 13 minutes for the Providence men’s soccer team to erase No.1 University of Maryland’s 4-1 lead Sunday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“Right now, this whole thing is pretty hard to process,” forward Gordon Wild said. “I am feeling bad for our seniors. I am feeling like I let them down. I can’t really find words for what just happened, this game.”
Providence stunned the Terps and rallied to a 5-4 victory in regular time. Disbelief echoed through players, coaches and fans in the unprecedented match that gave Maryland its first loss of the 2016 season.
“I am shocked and just gutted that a Maryland soccer team gave up five goals at home,” coach Sasho Cirovski said. “I have to take full responsibility. I am the coach of this team and my team gave up five goals. That is going to haunt me for a long time.”
Wild, Maryland’s leading scorer, opened up the scoring with a free kick from about 30 yards out. Maryland midfielder Amar Sejdic converted another close set piece in the 22nd minute, and the Terps took a 2-1 lead going into halftime.
Maryland looked a little slow heading into halftime, but started the second half with a renewed spark. Maryland scored two quick goals off of the feet of Sejdic and midfielder Eryk Williamson.
“We came out in the second half on fire,” Cirvoski said. “My goodness, that was more of a Maryland-type team. We really didn’t let them breathe. We were all over them and took a 4-1 lead.”
But that lead would quickly expire.
Despite their unbeaten record, Maryland was far from perfect defensively this season. The Terps lacked a defensive connectivity throughout the season but found ways to squeak out wins. Maryland’s resilience fell short against Providence in a matter of thirteen minutes.
In the 70th minute, 36 seconds after his teammate scored from five yards out, Providence defender Nick Sailor ripped a shot from 20 yards out.
“Momentum definitely went their way after the second goal,” Sejdic said. “[Sailor’s goal] was something nobody really expected. It was a hell of a shot from [Sailor], but it is something you least expect in a moment like that and in a game like that.”
The perfectly guided shot curled into the upper left corner of the goal and shrunk the Friars’ deficit to just one. It was Sailor’s first goal of the season.
“It was the outside of the foot, but I think really what it was is we just kept going,” Sailor said. “What that goal did for us was give us the confidence and belief to just keep going and leave it all out there.”
Providence’s Steven Kilday and Joao Serrano also collected their first goals of the season against the Terps Sunday, providing the equalizer and game-winning goals respectively.
“When you are down 4-1 against a team like Maryland, I don’t think you expect to come back and tie it up 4-4 in five minutes,” Providence midfielder Julian Gressel said. “We believed in ourselves and everyone was a part of it.”
Maryland was able to escape several close calls this season, including: a 104th minute goal against Rutgers to barely escape a previously scoreless Scarlet Knights; an 88th minute equalizer and overtime goal to seal the regular season Big Ten title against Wisconsin; and three 100+ minute overtime game-winners to close out the season and start the conference tournament.
“I think we have been playing with fire all year,” Cirovski said. “And tonight we got burned.”
The Terps finished the 2016 regular season undefeated for the first time in 48 years, earned their third regular season title in four years and captured their fifth consecutive conference title, but the dream of a national title abruptly came to a close for Maryland. Cirvoski’s new task is finding an what type of identity next year’s team will have.
“I want a championship identity, that’s what I want,” Cirovski said.
But that goal will have to wait at least one more long off season.
“I’ve often said during the year, ‘I wish we’d lose one so we can feel the hurt and understand how to close out some of these games,’” Cirovski said. “But when you are in it, you never want to lose one. Unfortunately now we are feeling that pain, but there is nothing we can do about it.”