- - Friday, December 7, 2012

HOOVER, Ala. — Once the eight-goal scoring madness at the College Cup had ended and Georgetown goalie Tomas Gomez batted away the final penalty kick, there was one last sprint to make.

Gomez dashed across the field to celebrate Georgetown’s NCAA men’s soccer semifinal advancement past Maryland. Teammates ran after their goalie – “You’re killing my fitness with those 100-yard runs,” forward Steve Neumann told Gomez later – until Gomez ended his sprint by sliding near a corner-kick flag with arms raised to the heavens.

Georgetown finally chased down Maryland.

For the first time in 29 all-time matches, the Hoyas left a game against the Terrapins smiling. Technically, the game ended as a 4-4 tie. But it’s Georgetown in its first College Cup appearance – not soccer power Maryland – that survived penalty kicks to reach Sunday’s national championship game against the winner of Indiana-Creighton.

“I blacked out after halftime so hopefully we won,” Georgetown coach Brian Wiese said. “That was pretty exciting. I think ESPN is pretty happy that nobody played defense today.”

Georgetown’s Neumann became the first player in 19 years to score a hat trick at the College Cup. Maryland (20-1-3) erased a two-goal deficit during the final 17 minutes of regulation and teamed with Georgetown (19-3-3) to tie for the second-highest scoring game in College Cup history.

“This was a spectacle,” Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said. “This was a game people will be talking about 20 to 30 years from now as one of the greatest College Cup games ever. I’ve been around for 25-plus years. I’ve never seen anything close to it. … It’s very difficult to cope with the reality that we’re not advancing.”

Looming over this game was Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson’s refusal to schedule Georgetown in any sport until the Hoyas agree to play Maryland in men’s basketball. So two teams separated by 12 miles traveled to the heart of college football country and played a futbol classic.

Maryland led 1-0 early. Neumann responded with two goals in a span of 89 seconds, including a gorgeous 22-yard strike that hit the far left post and ricocheted in.

“Stevie can create goals out of nothing,” Wiese said. “He’s as instinctual a player as I’ve ever coached.”

Disaster struck for Maryland in the 48th minute on a defensive misplay. A back pass had too much pace for goalie Keith Cardona to handle properly, and Georgetown’s Brandon Allen deflected the clearance attempt into the net for a stunning 3-1 lead.

“When you give up goals like that, sometimes it shows that maybe it’s not in the cards today,” Cirovski said. “That was a soft goal to give up in the College Cup and probably ended up being one of the killing points in the game.”

But the Terrapins rallied with goals by Patrick Mullins and Christiano Francois late in the game, forcing overtime and eventually penalty kicks.

“I make no apologies for not bunkering in, even on a 3-1 lead or 4-2 lead,” Wiese said. “That is not how we are built.”

Both teams missed a kick early in the penalty round, setting the stage for Gomez to face Maryland reserve Helge Leikvang. Earlier in the NCAA Tournament, Georgetown assistant coach Brian Gill cautioned Gomez that he moved too quickly on a few penalty kicks when the Hoyas advanced past Syracuse.

“Today I just stayed until they hit it,” Gomez said. “On the last one, I just had a hunch to go there and it ended up working out.”

All that remained was Gomez’s mad dash and a wish by Georgetown that basketball scheduling won’t prevent soccer teams from playing again.

“Boy, wouldn’t you want to see that every year?” Wiese said. “It’s just a fun game. I think we have huge amounts of respect for each other. It is what it is. Hopefully, we’ll wind up again at some point, maybe in front of a D.C. soccer community next time.”

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