- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

A.J. Godbolt’s number came up yesterday in the NCAA men’s soccer quarterfinals.

The sophomore midfielder scored in the 73rd minute to lift third-seeded Maryland past 11th-seeded St. John’s 1-0 at Ludwig Field and into the final four for the third consecutive season. The Terrapins (17-5-2) advanced to meet the winner of today’s Indiana-Tulsa game on Friday in Carson, Calif.

“It’s so hard to get there once, in reality, in a single-elimination competition. It’s difficult to get back [like] last year, when we were expected to be there,” Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said. “But this year people didn’t know what to expect from us. But we knew we were going to be a great team with the chance to be the greatest ever at Maryland. The pieces fit, the attitudes came together, the hunger stayed all year.”

Godbolt seemed an unlikely hero for the Terps. He had one career goal before yesterday, was coming off the bench after starting 17 times this season and even had to switch to No.25 because he ripped his usual No.5 jersey before the game. But his shrewd play helped keep Maryland in the hunt for its first outright NCAA title.

Defender Chris Lancos helped set up the goal with a cross from the right side. It skipped through the box, where it was corralled by midfielder Domenic Mediate. The senior then floated a pass toward the back of the box while Godbolt charged near the goal line toward the keeper. His perfect header zipped past Bill Gaudette (four saves), who had little chance to make the save.

“I saw Dom on the left side and I saw him lift the ball in and everyone just stood and watched it go over,” Godbolt said. “I saw Abe [Thompson] at the last minute, and I just pushed by my guy and tried to head it on goal. Luckily, it bounced between the keeper’s legs.”

In the final 18 minutes, the Terps had to fend off a Red Storm team forced to become more aggressive. St. John’s (12-6-5) had a couple chances in the closing minutes, but a corner kick blocked by Maryland midfielder Stephen King and solid play from Maryland keeper Noah Palmer (one save) helped preserve the victory.

“To go there the last two years and to be so close and be in that atmosphere, to be able to say you’re going back again to take another shot at it is one of the greatest feelings all the way around,” defender Kenney Bertz said. “For the team we have now, but also for the guys that have been there in past years that have been there but haven’t been able to get over that hump and win it all, it’s one of the greatest feelings.”

Maryland has already overcome its St. John’s jinx. The Terps had lost to the Red Storm in the postseason twice in the last five years, including 1-0 in last year’s semifinal. Yet with 4,404 boisterous fans in attendance — a Ludwig Field postseason record and the second-largest crowd in the facility’s history — Maryland won its ninth straight postseason home game.

“An environment like today’s is a showcase for college soccer,” Cirovski said. “You look at the beauty of this environment, if this is where the game is headed, we’re in great shape.”

The game could have been decided far sooner if not for a stellar first half by Gaudette, who reprised his role from last year’s semifinals when he made nine saves. The senior snared forward Jason Garey’s header in the seventh minute, then made an impressive sprawling save to the right on Thompson’s shot later in the half.

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