- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Maryland’s Seth Stammler will play in front of dozens of family and friends as the Terrapins vie for the NCAA men’s soccer championship this weekend.

It’s a homecoming that almost didn’t occur for the defender, who will play on the back line tomorrow when the second-seeded Terrapins (20-2-1) face sixth-seeded St. John’s (16-5-3) in Columbus, Ohio.

Stammler, who grew up in the Columbus suburb of Gahanna, was a striker in high school and came to Maryland in 2000 as part of a deep recruiting class. Injuries to key attacking players ravaged the Terps that fall and he started nine games as a freshman.

Yet Stammler knew those injured players would eventually return and he began to ponder his future. Worried about riding the bench for the rest of his career, he spoke with Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski about transferring, but was permitted to continue training with the team during the spring.

“That spring I was getting kind of nervous about what my role on the team was going to be in future years and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stick around and just live that limited role,” Stammler said.

Just before the spring semester ended, Cirovski called Stammler into his office. Stammler still hadn’t decided what he would do, but Cirovski convinced him to stay at Maryland, offering the chance to move to defender.

Stammler stayed and shifted to right back as a sophomore, then moved to center back as a junior. He was happy to be on the field, but it turned out the transition wasn’t difficult for a player who had spent his soccer life up front.

“Playing striker the previous 12 years of my life actually ended up helping me because I could anticipate where the game was going to go, what forwards were going to try to do on the ball,” Stammler said.

He has since developed into one of the top center backs in the country, becoming a key cog in a Maryland defense that has held opponents to 0.56 goals a game this season and allowed just 11 shots on goal in three NCAA tournament games. Like a coach on the field, Stammler is almost never caught out of position.

“He does everything right,” said defender Clarence Goodson, himself a former striker. “He does absolutely everything that’s ever expected of him. He’s going to be there every game. He’s a rock in the back.”

Stammler can also draw a crowd near his hometown. Most of his family will be at Crew Stadium tomorrow and high school friends have called all week to offer congratulations and ask for a spot on Stammler’s ticket list.

The trip back to the semifinals also helped complete a running joke between junior forward Domenic Mediate and Stammler. Mediate, who will miss the College Cup with a broken collarbone, grew up in the Dallas suburbs, the site of last year’s final four.

“He kept on saying how he wanted to go home and I kept telling him he was going to take us there,” Stammler said. “Sure enough, he was scoring all the goals in the NCAA tournament. This year, I kept telling him he had to take me home. Unfortunately he got hurt, but luckily we’ve been able to pick up the slack.”

The Terps didn’t win a title last season, but Stammler’s homecoming could prove the perfect end to his fairy-tale career in College Park.

“It’s the stuff that dreams are made of,” Cirovski said. “You leave home, you go to a big-time program to accomplish something special and now you’re a couple games away. It doesn’t get a lot better in your world, I don’t think.”

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