- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

At long last, a game involving penalty kicks went Maryland goalkeeper Noah Palmer’s way.

After 110 scoreless minutes, Palmer and the third-seeded Terrapins outlasted Creighton 5-4 in a shootout before 2,479 at Ludwig Field yesterday to advance to the NCAA men’s soccer quarterfinals.

Maryland (16-5-2) will play host to St. John’s (12-5-4) on Saturday. The Red Storm defeated the Terps 1-0 in last year’s NCAA semifinals.

The only goal in that game was a 35th-minute penalty kick brought on by Palmer’s foul in the box. Maryland also surrendered a critical penalty shot in a 2-1 loss to UCLA in the 2002 semifinals and lost last year’s ACC final to Virginia in a shootout.

That was plenty history for Palmer, but the four-year starter never doubted the Terps would win their eighth consecutive postseason home game.

“It wasn’t nerve-wracking,” Palmer said. “It was just emotional. I think we’ve been on the wrong end of the penalty kicks too many times. I was confident the whole time.”

With both Palmer and Creighton keeper Matt Allen playing well in regulation, it seemed like the game was headed for penalty kicks even before the 20 minutes of overtime. Maryland, though, was prepared to go that route to keep alive its hopes of a third straight final four appearance.

“Normally, the higher-seeded team or favorite thinks they’ve already lost the game [entering a shootout],” Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said. “[But] you could see it in our guys’ eyes. They were ready.”

Senior Abe Thompson opened the penalty kicks with a shot into the upper right corner, but Creighton’s Kama Bennah tied it in the second round. The Bluejays (14-4-2) looked to be in control after Maryland’s Michael Dello-Russo missed high, but Palmer took two steps to his right and dove to save Joan Carvajal’s attempt to preserve the 1-1 tie.

The teams then traded goals in the next three rounds, with Domenic Mediate, Stephen King and Jason Arnold all connecting for the Terps. Maurice Edu then opened the seventh round with a shot into the upper left corner just inches beyond Allen’s reach.

Creighton, though, couldn’t prolong the shootout. Midfielder Vince Odorisio’s attempt sailed high and right of the net, prompting the Terps to charge from their midfield perch to celebrate the victory with Palmer.

Maryland had the better of play in the first half, but Allen shut the Terps down. In one four-minute stretch, Allen (six saves) denied Jason Garey’s 10-yard shot from the middle of the box and Thompson’s 12-yard attempt from the right side to keep it scoreless.

It was a victory Cirovski will no doubt savor — that is, when he’s well enough. Cirovski injured his back while attempting to fix signboards blown over by the wind at Ludwig on Friday. He was limited at times yesterday and was forced to sit down for a long stretch in the second half.

“I was in a lot of physical pain, but right now mentally I’m very happy and very relieved,” Cirovski said. “I can’t wait to get home and get to bed now.”

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