- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 2004

CARSON, Calif. — As it makes its third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Men’s College Cup, Maryland seeks to burst through the barrier that impeded a place in the past two finals. But blocking the Terrapins’ hopes this year is the defending NCAA champion and a perennial college power.

Third-seeded Maryland (17-5-2) plays second-seeded Indiana at 8 in the first of tonight’s two semifinals at the Home Depot Center. Indiana won its sixth NCAA title last year for coach Jerry Yeagley, who retired afterward with 544 victories in 31 seasons — more than any other NCAA Division I coach.

If the Terrapins win tonight, they would face Duke or UC Santa Barbara in Sunday’s final — which would be Maryland’s first since 1968.

“We feel like we have a sense of unfinished business here,” Terps coach Sasho Cirovski said. “In the past two years, we haven’t really showcased our attack in the manner that we’re capable of, and we’re prepared for the challenge.”

That attack amassed 60 goals, the second-highest total in school history. Leading Maryland’s offense are two semifinalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy as the nation’s best college player: Jason Garey and Abe Thompson.

Garey, a junior forward, scored 21 goals and needs only one assist to tie the single-season record for most points (52). Thompson, a senior forward, has 11 goals and will end his career as Maryland’s all-time points leader.

“We love to attack,” Garey said. “We think that is the right way to play soccer. We’re best when we’re attacking teams and playing in their half of the field.”

Midfielder Domenic Mediate provides a third option for an offense that hopes to exploit the Home Depot Center’s wide field.

“I think it’ll favor us quite a bit,” midfielder Maurice Edu said. “We like to spread the ball wide, play into our wings and whip in crosses.”

Indiana (17-4-1) counters with a defense that has 12 shutouts, 11 by senior goalkeeper Jay Nolly, and has yet to allow a goal in the NCAA tournament. Among those protecting Nolly are senior midfielder Danny O’Rourke and junior defender Drew Moor, two more semifinalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy.

But Maryland also has yet to allow a tournament opponent to score. Senior goalkeeper Noah Palmer earned nine of his 34 career shutouts this year while compiling a 0.99 goals-against average.

The key to the Terrapins’ defensive success, however, has been the play of defenders Michael Dello-Russo and David Glaudemans, who moved into starting positions after redshirting last year.

Though Indiana returns eight starters and all but four players from its championship squad, first-year coach Mike Freitag does not consider his team the favorite.

“This season, more than any other, there’s parity in collegiate soccer, and I think you’re going to continue to see that trend,” Freitag said. “There are more and more good youth players, so programs are recruiting a good class.”

So who is the favorite?

“I don’t think there is a favorite,” Freitag said. “Once you get here, the pressure leaves a little bit. You made it to the dance. Now, you’ve just got to get out and boogie.”

Only this time, Maryland hopes to be doing the boogie last.

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