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No. 8 Maryland men’s soccer preview vs. High Point

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Maryland welcomes the defending Big South champions on Monday.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Coming off its first loss of the season, the No. 8 Maryland men’s soccer team scored two second-half goals to emerge from its Big Ten opener against Michigan victorious.

It was a gritty victory for the Terrapins after the first half came and went without a goal for the third consecutive game. But the second half saw a more poised approach on the offense from head coach Sasho Cirovski’s squad, leading to the 2-1 win.

Up next is High Point, a United Soccer Coaches Poll preseason top 25 team. The Panthers have been a shell of its preseason ranking to start the year, but nonetheless, it will be another worthy challenger stepping into Ludwig under the lights.

Monday’s game will be played at 7 p.m. and can be watched on BTN Plus.

High Point Panthers (2-3)

2020-21 record: 12-2 (8-0)

Head coach Zach Haines was hired away from the University of Denver in February 2019 and has done a solid job of translating his success with the Pioneers over to the High Point program. In his debut season, Haines guided the Panthers to a Big South Championship with a 13-7 record. He followed that up with a 12-2 record in the spring of 2021, clinching his first NCAA Tournament berth since arriving at High Point.

In his third year, Haines’s squad entered the season with lofty expectations as the No. 24 team in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll. The Panthers quickly fell out of the national limelight, however, dropping its season opener against Davidson, 3-1. Two more losses sandwiched between victories against Coastal Carolina and Elon precede Monday’s match against the Terrapins.

Players to know

Junior forward MD Myers (No. 9) — Myers absolutely exploded onto the national scene last season as he was tied for the most goals in Division I with 14 — including six games of two scores. He was named the Big South Offensive Player of the Year and was picked by the Big South coaches as the preseason recipient of the same award. Thus far, Myers has lived up to his scoring hype, producing a team-high two goals, with nine of his 19 attempts being on-goal.

Senior midfielder Sebastian Chalbaud (No. 10) — A standout with the Stetson Hatters of the Atlantic Sun, Chalbaud took his talents to High Point to finish out his last two seasons of eligibility. Starting in all 14 games over the spring, the junior was a catalyst of High Point’s successful campaign, scoring nine goals and providing four assists, leading to an All-Big South first-team selection. It’s been a bit of a slow start for Chalbaud, but his penalty kick against Elon could be the start of his hot streak.

Defenders Josh Dubost (No. 12) & Nick Phipps (No. 2) — High Point’s defense is led by two standout upperclassmen, the senior Dubost and the graduate student Phipps. The duo pace sthe team in minutes played with 427 and 409, respectively. Dubost was an All-Big South honorable mention in the spring, whereas Phipps was named the 2020-21 Big South Tournament MVP. The two are key cogs in the defensive rotation for an underperforming, yet talented unit.

Strength

Plenty of options. Despite High Point’s disappointing start to the season, there’s a reason the defending Big South champs were ranked to start the year. There is no shortage of talent on this squad, a strength that Maryland will have to be cautious of. Myers and Chalbaud are the obvious scoring threats, but senior midfielder Alex Abril is coming off a game-winning score in High Point’s last match and forward Caco Fernandez has collected three points over the past two outings.

The defense too hosts studs all around the pitch, like the aforementioned Dubost and Phipps. But keep an eye out for 2020-21 All-Big South first-teamer Finn McRobb who was the anchor of a defense that allowed just nine goals last season. The Scot didn’t appear in High Point’s last game, however, so it remains to be seen if it was a healthy absence or an injury that may keep him out of Monday’s matchup as well.

Weakness

Holden Trent’s inconsistent start. The starting goalkeeper for the Panthers finishes off the list of standout players on High Point and he may have been the most impactful in the dream spring season. As a redshirt sophomore, Trent allowed just nine goals across 14 starts, but through four appearances this season, the standout from the spring has already ceded seven. Further adding to the regression seen from Trent, a red card against Virginia led to his absence against Cornell, a game the Panthers lost by three scores. If High Point wants to turn its season around and reflect its preseason pedigree, it has to start in net.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland get things going early? The biggest takeaway from Maryland’s recent stretch of games has been its lack of results in the first half. Dating back to its game against George Mason on Sept. 3, the Terps have not scored a goal in the opening 45 minutes. A strong second half against Michigan allowed the Terrapins to escape with a 2-1 victory, but High Point is hungry for a marquee victory to put themselves back on the map. The Panthers have the talent to make some noise in this one, and the Terps may not be so fortunate to walk away with another victory if they don’t set the tone early.

2. How will Maryland handle the quick turnaround? After spacing out three games across 12 days, the Terps line up for its second game of a three--game stretch played within eight days. The stretch of games started on Friday against Michigan, with two days separating this upcoming match against High Point. Maryland’s sights are set on Monday’s game, but then another quick turnaround to play Ohio State on Friday, Sept. 24, has to play a factor in the preparation style for the Terps. Only time will tell on how Maryland handles the Buckeyes, but for now, the quick turnaround in hosting High Point could be problematic from a fatigue standpoint.

3. Is forward Hunter George next up? The transfer from San Diego State has been one of the main offensive pieces in Cirovski’s rotation that has not found the back of the net yet. He made great strides towards achieving the allusive first goal as a Terp against Virginia, but his chances have been limited to just one shot between the last two matches. On Friday, George was called upon to take the 55th-minute free kick, but a last-minute switch gave way to forward Joshua Bolma scoring his second goal of the season. That selflessness from George has been noticed by Bolma, Cirovski and others on the team, hinting that the team player will soon have his shining moment.