The Maryland Terrapins and Providence Friars took to a cold and blustery Ludwig Field Sunday night with a berth in the Sweet Sixteen on the line. When the evening ended, Maryland found themselves in a very familiar position coming out on the long end of a 3-1 score and moving to the round of sixteen for the twelfth consecutive season.
The Terps got on the board first thanks to a strong effort from freshman Michael Sauers. Sauers, who had come off the bench to score the game winner in the Terps overtime win against Clemson in the ACC semi-final, made Coach Sasho Cirovski's decision to insert him into the starting lineup pay off just over six minutes into the match. The freshman took a cross along the left side from Patrick Mullins, beat two Friars defenders to create some space and chipped his shot into the left side of the net to give the Terps the early advantage.
Maryland had another chance in the ninth minute when Mullins took a ball down the right side and got some space when his defender slipped. However, he didn't get a clean touch on the ball and his shot went wide. This break seemed to energize the Friars. The Terps clearly had the run of play early but after the Mullins miss, Providence increased the pressure and began creating offensive chances and getting off three shots between the eighteenth and twenty-third minutes. Their best chance came with 21:57 to play when Mac Steeves had a good run down the left side but Chris Odoi-Atsem did an excellent job of cutting off the angle to make Zack Steffen's first save rather routine.
The Terps began to take back some control in the flow of the game getting a good chance for Mikias Eticha in the thirty-first minute but the junior midfielder sent his shot high. Steffen picked up his second save of the half about seven minutes later on a Providence counter when Fabio Machado fed a nice ball to Wilder Arboleda. But Steffen had a clear look and again protected the goal.
On the Terrapin counter, Mullins took a pass from Jereme Raley and worked into open space on the right side of the box forcing Providence goalkeeper Keasel Broome to come off his line. Mullins launched his shot toward the far post and Broome made a desperation dive to his right getting one hand on the ball and punching it wide. The Terps had several dangerous chances on the ensuing corner kick but failed to extend the lead as the game went to halftime with Maryland holding a 1-0 lead.
The Friars were the aggressors early in the second half and had a nicely developed attack down the left side that led to an open look at the goal but Julian Gressel's shot hit the post and the Terps cleared the ball out of danger. For the next several minutes of play, neither team could develop a clear advantage though the Terps did have a corner kick in the fifty-third minute.
Maryland had a chance to extend the lead in the sixty eighth minute. Mikey Ambrose played a crossing ball from the left side deep into the box that Broome punched out. However, the ball came almost directly to Sunny Jane at the right corner of the eighteen but the senior's shot flew just wide.
Providence got the equalizer off the ensuing goal kick. Machado played a ball in from about twenty-five yards and found Phil Towler in some open space in the box. Towler flicked the shot past Steffen to knot the score at one all.
The Terrapins answered quickly and definitively needing barely a minute to recapture the lead. As Cirovski said after the game, "I give Providence a lot of credit for being resolute in finding the tying goal but our response couldn't have been better. We raised it about three levels." The response came on the restart with several one touch passes down the left side culminating in a back touch from Mullins to Tsubasa Endoh who cleared the ball and was taken down in the box. Asked how he knew Endoh would be available for the back pass, Mullins said, "I've played with Tsubasa so much in practice and it was just a look out of the corner of my eye. (Alex) Shinsky played a great ball into me which pretty much collapsed the defense. I think two or three guys came to me and I knew Tsubasa was going to be right there with me." The penalty kick went to Mullins who has been automatic all season. The senior stepped up and calmly knocked in his fifteenth goal of the season.
The Terps got an insurance goal in the eighty seventh minute. Jake Pace wrestled the ball free from a Providence player near midfield and took the ball down the right center quickly getting behind the Friars' defenders. He took the ball just inside the eighteen and, with Broome far off his line, fired a rocket into net.
Providence had a chance to sneak closer with a minute and a half to play when Steffen picked up a contested ball that the referee ruled a back pass resulting in a free kick from inside the box. The Terrapin defensive wall blocked the shot and the rebound Maryland ran out the clock to move on.
The Terps will host the UC Irvine Anteaters in the round of sixteen. The game is scheduled for a 5:00 pm start on the first of December.