A pretty good decade

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Today is Maryland soccer media day, and I’m always more than a little interested to hear what Sasho Cirovski has to say. There’s never a dull moment when he has a tape recorder in front of him, and he has a highly regarded team (what else is new?) and a highly regarded freshman class (ditto), so this should be a nice break in the middle of a football-heavy month.

There’s a certain coach on Maryland’s campus who likes to claim his program’s had “a pretty good decade.” I’ve never heard Cirovski say that, but he very easily could, given where his program has come from.

If you hop in a time machine and go back to this time in 1993, Cirovski had just been hired by Andy Geiger and was taking over a program without much going for it. One NCAA tournament appearance in 16 years wasn’t good in a league that featured Clemson, Duke and Virginia, who had combined to at least claim a share of five of the previous seven national titles.

A barely presentable playing facility didn’t help matters, either. But Cirovski had the Terps in the postseason by his second year and has missed out only once since. Oh, and there’s that spiffy 2005 national title to show off, too.

The last decade has been particularly kind. There’s that 153-61-12 record, and booming attendance helped by arguably the biggest student section on campus outside of football and men’s basketball.

In fact, Maryland might just be the second-best team nationally in the last 10 years, behind only Indiana. And being No. 2 to the Hoosiers in soccer is sort of like sitting behind only Duke in basketball in the last quarter-century. Or maybe behind Southern Cal in this decade. It doesn’t speak ill of you, that’s for sure.

Here’s the methodology: I gave one point for an NCAA tournament appearance, then tacked on three extra points for a final four appearance, four points for a title game trip and six points for a national championship.

So these are the top 10 and ties since 1998:

SchoolTitleRunner-upFinal four
NCAAPoints
Indiana4111041
Maryland104927
UCLA1111023
Connecticut1011019
Santa Clara
012818
Creighton0111017
Wake Forest
101817
UCSB110616
St. John’s
011916
SMU0021016
Stanford021516

This was an attempt to reward consistency, but one team that has made the NCAA tournament every year for the last decade didn’t make the cut. That was Virginia, which has only one College Cup appearance in that time and wound up with 13 points.

The only national champion not to crack the list? North Carolina, which has no other final four trips in eight NCAA appearances in the last 10 years to go with its 2001 title.

Back to Maryland. The Terps made their first final four under Cirovski in 1998 with a team that hadn’t advanced deep into the NCAA tournament the previous two years but added a ton of young talent and began playing especially well in November. This season’s group is coming off consecutive round-of-16 ousters and brings in a bunch of promising freshmen.

History could repeat itself, and given Maryland’s place among the sport’s giants of late, it really wouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Patrick Stevens

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