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Maryland men’s soccer falls in second round of NCAA Tournament to No. 14-seed Cornell, 2-1

All three goals were scored in the final minutes of the game.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

With only six minutes remaining between Maryland men’s soccer and No. 14-seed Cornell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, it seemed like the match was destined for a penalty shootout as neither team was able to create many opportunities.

The clock stopped with 6:24 remaining as senior goalkeeper Niklas Neumann lined up a goal kick. He booted the ball toward midfield and Cornell senior midfielder Brandon Morales jumped up and headed the ball back towards Neumann.

Cornell sophomore forward Danny Lokko gathered the ball and passed it to senior defender Cam Maquat. After getting swarmed by Maryland defenders, Maquat dished the ball right back to Lokko, who swung his leg back and drilled the ball at the net.

Lokko’s shot sailed over the head of Neumann and into the net, giving the Big Red their first lead of the match.

Two more goals followed — one for Cornell and one for Maryland — but the Terps were unable to erase the deficit by the time the final buzzer sounded, ending their memorable season in a 2-1 defeat in Ithaca, New York on Sunday afternoon.

With patches of snow littered across the field, both teams were in for a brutal matchup in the sub-30 degrees Fahrenheit weather.

The Big Red were aggressive to begin the match. They only attempted one shot — which was saved by senior goalkeeper Niklas Neumann — in the first 10 minutes but applied constant pressure on the Terps’ backline.

Despite this, Maryland’s defense held strong throughout the entirety of the first half. Cornell had back-to-back set pieces in the 12th minute, but its lone shot attempt was blocked.

Neumann was challenged again in the 17th minute. Fifth-year defender Nick Allen dribbled down the field before lining up a cross to senior midfielder Brandon Morales. Allen’s pass was slightly behind Morales, but the midfielder was able to get his foot on it and flick it toward the top right corner of the net. With the ball floating towards him, Neumann had to fully extend in order to bat the ball away and keep the Terps out of a deficit.

The next 15 minutes were a battle, as neither team dominated possession nor attempted a shot.

Freshman forward Max Riley took Maryland’s first shot of the game in the 34th minute. Riley did not get much power on his header, though, as the shot was easily scooped up by Cornell freshman goalkeeper Ryan Friedberg.

Cornell’s offense was reenergized in the final six minutes of the half as Neumann was bombarded with shots in the 40th minute. Morales took the first shot from about 20 yards out, but Neumann halted the attack. The save was immediately followed by another shot, which Neumann deflected with his right leg.

While neither team scored in the first half, Cornell clearly had control of the match, attempting five more shots than the Terps.

Similar to the first half, Cornell was the aggressor in the early going, but then the Terps began to heat up.

Freshman midfielder Albi Ndrenika had Maryland’s best opportunity of the match in the 88th minute and scored the Terps’ only goal of the game, but it wasn’t enough to claw back and keep their season alive.

Three things to know

1. The Terps’ offense was nonexistent. Coming off one of its best and most complete offensive games of the season, Maryland’s offense came out flat against Cornell. The Terps only attempted one shot in the first half, which occurred over 30 minutes into the match. Maryland was much more aggressive in the second half, but its 88th-minute goal was not enough to take down the Big Red.

2. Cirovski went with his freshmen. It was a bit unclear as to who would earn the final two spots in the Terps’ starting lineup, but head coach Sasho Cirovski elected to go with Ndrenika and freshman forward Colin Griffith. Both played very well recently, as Ndrenika scored in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against FDU and Griffith scored in both of Maryland’s Big Ten Tournament matches. Ndrenika was able to get on the board against Cornell, but was not met with much help from his teammates.

3. Maryland’s impressive season comes to an end. The Terps were ranked inside the United Soccer Coaches’ top 10 for much of this season and won the Big Ten regular-season title for the first time since 2016, earning them a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Maryland defeated FDU, 5-2, in the first round and and advanced to the second round for the first time since 2019. However, the Terps’ run came to an end on Sunday as they failed to withstand the harsh climate and Cornell’s late-game surge.