- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

The NCAA tournament hasn’t come soon enough for the Maryland men’s soccer team.

The Terrapins have been ranked first or second all season, but another shot at a national title has been in mind since the team lost in the final four a season ago. That opportunity loomed even larger after the Terps — who brought back all but one player from last year — clinched their first ACC regular season title since 1971 by defeating Virginia on Oct.31.

The chance finally arrives tonight for the second-seeded Terps (17-2-1), who play host to Old Dominion (15-3-1) in a second round NCAA game at Ludwig Field.

“There was a stage right after the Virginia game, this team wanted to start the NCAA tournament,” Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said. “That’s with no disrespect to the ACC championships because that’s important to us, but you could read it in their eyes. You could see we wanted to get on with the NCAAs. This is what we’ve been waiting for since last December.”

In the interim, the Terps have continued to develop a balanced and aggressive offense, as well as a defense that has surrendered a goal every other game. They also earned one of the top four seeds in the tournament, ensuring they would play at home — where they are 24-1 the last two seasons — through the quarterfinals.

Maryland will be bolstered by the return of explosive forward Abe Thompson, who missed the last eight regular season games with plantar fasciitis before playing sparingly in the ACC tournament. Thompson scored 14 goals a year ago and is fourth on the team with 12 points despite sitting out almost half the year.

Though the Terps will be without defender Kenney Bertz, who was suspended one game after drawing two yellow cards in the ACC tournament final, the team is prepared to come off a 10-day layoff tonight.

“We’ve been ready the whole season,” senior midfielder Scott Buete said. “Now’s the time where you start to get the jitters and the butterflies in your stomach and especially after we had a week off even more. In practice, you can just feel the difference. There’s more intensity and more communication. It feels like it’s starting to come together.”

It may have to against Old Dominion, a team capable of providing a tough test. The Monarchs won their first 14 games and rose to No.4 in the country but ended the regular season with a 0-3-1 skid. Old Dominion rebounded with a 6-3 drubbing of N.C. State in the first round of the NCAA tournament

The Monarchs will play without defenders Ian Kaila and Trevor McEachron, who suffered season-ending knee injuries late in the regular season, but Cirovski is still wary of Old Dominion.

“There’s 11 players on the field, and they’ve regularly played 15 or 16 all year,” Cirovski said. “Soccer’s a game where you can compensate for one or two key losses a little bit. They’re a good team. They demolished N.C. State, and those guys didn’t play in that game.”

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