- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

When a program has reached the national semifinals three times in the last six years — as the Maryland men’s soccer team has — only one part of the season seems to matter.

Tonight, that stretch starts for the third-seeded Terrapins (15-5-1), who play host to Hofstra (12-9-1) at Ludwig Field in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The Terps, who had a first-round bye, have been eager to make a third straight run at the final four since the season started.

“We were ready for this since the first game of the year, since the preseason,” said junior forward Jason Garey, who leads the Terps with 20 goals. “This is when we start having a lot of fun. This is the time of year we’ve been waiting for, when every game counts. We like this part of the season.”

There were similar sentiments last year, when Maryland had almost everyone back to make another run at a title and was ranked in the top 10 all year. It took awhile for the Terps to emerge as a dominant team this season, but they are again a final four contender.

“We obviously had some young players we brought in, and we had some players playing different positions, and I think it had to sort of redefine itself a little bit,” coach Sasho Cirovski said. “And yet it’s carried the sense of unfinished business from last year into the season. Right now, we’re very focused, but we also feel like we have a very tough draw.”

Colonials’ heights

George Washington became one of the surprise stories of the first round of the tournament, going on the road to stun North Carolina 1-0 on Friday.

Yet while the victory — the school’s first in the NCAA tournament since 1989 — ranks among the finest in program history, the Colonials’ rally from a frustrating start is even more impressive.

GW (10-8-4) had trouble early in the season, scuffling to a 1-8-3 start despite some decent though uneven play. Just looking for a respectable finish, the Colonials have ripped off a 9-0-1 record since Oct. 15.

“We definitely didn’t see ourselves in this tournament,” said GW coach George Lidster, whose team visits 16th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth (11-5-2) tonight. “We were just looking for a win, any win. Even though we’d lost eight, we were still in every game but one. … Every game we were making a silly mistake in the back, and we couldn’t score to save our lives.”

Yet with a switch from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 formation, coupled with the return of sophomore defender Jeremiah Burke from a leg injury, the Colonials have rallied to have a chance to reach the NCAA’s round of 16. Lidster said a quick goal could be a key tonight for the Colonials, who scored in the second minute against North Carolina.

“We got on the board in 90 seconds, and that gave our guys [a lift],” Lidster said. “We have to do that again. If we let in an early goal, we’ll be hard-pressed to pull off a result.”

Eagles set for Virginia

American (15-5-1) has a tough challenge tonight against fourth-seeded Virginia (17-4) at Charlottesville’s Klockner Stadium.

The Eagles, who blanked Long Island 3-0 in the first round Saturday, are 11-1-1 since Sept. 29 and have a chance to reach the round of 16 for the third time since 1997. To do so, they will have to defeat a team coming off an ACC tournament title.

“We’ve played Virginia many times, and we obviously respect the heck out of that program,” American coach Todd West said. “The players they’re putting on the field, we recruited most of them, and they went to Virginia. We know it’s going to be a good game, but to me, that’s just a good game to win.”

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