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NCAA Tournament second round preview: Maryland men’s soccer vs. No. 14-seed Cornell

The Terps will travel to Ithaca, New York to face the Big Red.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Maryland men’s soccer is set to take on No. 14-seed Cornell Sunday at 2 p.m. after defeating Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

Junior forward Stefan Copetti got things started with a goal in the second minute, and the Terps never looked back. Senior midfielder Malcolm Johnston followed up Copetti’s goal with a nifty free kick in the 10th minute before delivering a beautiful back-heel flick to freshman midfielder Albi Ndrenika for his first career goal and Maryland’s third of the half.

Down 3-0, the Knights needed to dominate the second half, but the Terps continued to pile on. Redshirt sophomore midfielder Joe Suchecki got on the board in the 64th minute, and senior forward Hunter George scored Maryland’s final goal of the match in the 81st minute.

FDU freshman forward Matt Giraldo countered the Terps’ attack with two goals, but it was too little, too late for Giraldo and the Knights, falling to Maryland, 5-2.

Coming off one of its best performances of the season, Maryland will take on the Cornell Big Red in its first road game since Oct. 30. The match will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday and be streamed on ESPN Plus.

Cornell Big Red (13-3-1, 5-1-1 Ivy League)

2021 record: 11-3-2 (4-2-1)

Head coach John Smith is in his seventh year with the program and has already cemented himself in the record books. The Big Red are in the midst of four consecutive 10-win seasons — the longest streak in program history — and have made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. Cornell only captured one win in Smith’s first season but have since been a dominant force in the Ivy League.

Players to watch

Emeka Eneli, fifth-year forward, No. 14 — Eneli has been one of the best offensive players in the Ivy League since his debut season in 2018. During his freshman year, Eneli finished second in the conference in total points (16) with seven goals and two assists. He has not quite reached those numbers this year — recording 14 points with four goals and six assists — but was still a unanimous First Team All-Ivy League selection.

Brandon Morales, senior midfielder, No. 10 — Morales has been a rotational piece for most of his collegiate career but absolutely exploded this year. He is third in the Ivy League in points this season (24) with eight goals and eight assists. Morales has scored a goal in two of the last four games and is somebody Maryland needs to prepare for.

Connor Drought, senior defender, No. 3 — Drought was the only Cornell defensive player to earn a First Team All-Ivy League selection this year. Similar to Morales, Drought did not start much last season but has proved to be one of the best defenders in the nation this year. While he is known for his defense, Drought is still lethal on the offensive end, contributing with three goals and eight assists this season.


Offense. Cornell is one of the best offensive teams in the country. The Big Red rank 24th in the nation in total goals (38) and 26th in total points (114). Cornell has seven players with multiple goals this season as a variety of different players are a threat.


Goalkeeping. While Cornell is one of the better defensive teams in the Ivy League, allowing just 17 goals on the season, it tends to struggle at stopping accurate shots. The Big Red have the worst save percentage (.685) in the conference, one of the only holes in their game.

Three things to watch

1. What will Maryland’s rotation look like? With junior defender Alex Nitzl and Suchecki returning from injury, head coach Sasho Cirovski suddenly has an overwhelming amount of talent at his disposal. Defenders William Kulvik, Nick Richardson, Chris Rindov, Luca Costabile and Nitzl are all locks for the starting lineup, as are offensive players Joshua Bolma, Copetti and Johnston, leaving two more spots outside of goal. Freshmen forward Colin Griffith and Ndrenika have played great recently, but Suchecki, senior forward Hunter George and sophomore midfielder Griffin Dillon — who was ineligible against FDU — are much more experienced.

Cirovski did not give much insight into who he intends to start, but he did say, “I think we can figure it out pretty easily.”

2. Can Maryland maintain its first-half magic? The Terps were phenomenal in the first 45 minutes of play against FDU, scoring three goals and holding the Knights to just one shot. However, this has not been a theme for Maryland this season. The Terps surrendered a combined four first-half goals against Indiana and Denver, which resulted in crucial losses. So the question becomes, which Maryland team will we see on Sunday?

3. How will the Terps fare on the road? The support of Maryland’s faithful fanbase has been evident throughout postseason play, but the Terps will not have the same support come Sunday. Maryland’s last away game was against Indiana in the regular-season finale, meaning this is the Terps’ first road playoff game. Now in a hostile environment, it will be interesting to see if they can prevail.