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No. 1-seed Maryland men’s soccer upended by No. 4-seed Indiana in Big Ten Tournament semifinals, 2-1

The Terps had home-field advantage as Big Ten regular-season champs but fail to make the conference championship game.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics
Twitter @MarylandMSoccer

Down 2-0 to fourth-seeded Indiana at halftime, No. 1-seed Maryland men’s soccer needed a sudden response if it wanted a chance at the Big Ten Tournament championship.

Head coach Sasho Cirovski made some crucial adjustments that led to multiple opportunities.

The first came in the 61st minute when freshman forward Colin Griffith drilled the ball from 18 yards out and into the bottom left corner of the net.

The second came in the 65th minute when freshman midfielder Albi Ndrenika lined up for a corner kick. Ndrenika lifted the ball into the goal area where senior defender Chris Rindov jumped through the Hoosiers’ backline and headed the ball toward the net. Rindov’s header bounced off the crossbar right in front of the goal line but did not roll in.

“It’s really unfortunate to not tie this game up,” Cirovski said.

It was a matter of inches for the Terps, but Rindov’s near-goal ended up being the difference between a regulation loss and overtime. Maryland’s Big Ten Tournament run ended early in a 2-1 loss to the Hoosiers, and the Terps will now turn their attention to the College Cup.

“We need to find a way to play from the start of the game,” Cirovski said. “But you know, again, I love this team. We have so much good character, good quality within the team. We fought until the very last whistle. I’m very proud of that and I think we have a lot to play for.”

With a Big Ten Tournament finals appearance on the line, both teams were aggressive from the opening whistle.

After a sideline-to-sideline duel, junior forward Stefan Copetti had an open shot on goal in the eighth minute, but it nicked the left goal post and trickled out of play.

Maryland continued its aggressive level of play and refused to allow an Indiana shot attempt through the first 15 minutes.

However, Indiana sophomore forward Samuel Sarver broke through the Terps’ backline in the 20th minute. Sarver stormed through the defense until he reached the edge of the 18-yard box. He rifled a shot at senior goalkeeper Niklas Neumann, but it was too high and too far right.

Cracks continued to appear throughout Maryland’s defense in the 23rd minute. Indiana redshirt senior forward Ryan Wittenbrink received a free kick a few yards outside of the box and booted it at the same spot Sarver did.

The Terps finally collapsed in the final 15 minutes of the half as Indiana showered Maryland with goals.

The first came in the 35th minute when Wittenbrink drove into the box and delivered a beautiful left-footed pass. The ball snuck through three Maryland defenders before reaching Sarver, who had a wide open shot on goal, which he converted.

The Terps stalled the Hoosiers attack in the 39th minute — saving two consecutive shots in the span of six seconds — but Wittenbrink lined up for a corner kick moments later.

Maryland deflected Wittenbrink’s kick toward the edge of the box where Indiana freshman midfielder Jack Wagoner fired the ball right back into the goal area. Indiana junior defender Joey Maher collected Wagoner’s pass and immediately flicked it up and over the Terps’ defense. Redshirt senior defender Nick Richardson pounded the ground as the ball nestled into the back of the net.

The Terps only attempted two shots in the first half, but there was still a sliver of hope; Maryland has thrived coming out of the intermission all season long.

After an uneventful first 15 minutes, the Terps got rolling once the 61st minute hit. Griffith gathered the ball through a slew of both Maryland and Indiana players about 20 yards out. He then took two steps forward and delivered a towards the bottom left corner of the net.

Indiana junior goalkeeper JT Harms was unable to stop the missile headed his way, cutting the Hoosiers’ lead to one.

With the home crowd roaring, the Terps applied even more pressure, resulting in a corner kick. Rindov rose above Indiana’s backline and headed the ball towards the net. Rindov’s shot bounced off the cross bar and down towards the goal line, but Indiana senior forward Herbert Endeley headed the ball away.

Maryland ultimately outshot the Hoosiers 7-0 in a dominant second-half performance, but it wasn't enough to withstand the upset.

Maryland hopes to rebound in the NCAA Tournament, which will have its 48-team field revealed Monday at 1 p.m..

Three things to know

1. The Terps were missing two starters. Junior defender Alex Nitzl and redshirt sophomore midfielder Joe Suchecki were available Wednesday night but never saw the field. The two were dealing with nagging injuries — groin and leg, respectively — and Cirovski elected not to play the pair with the NCAA Tournament just over a week away. The two were definitely missed, though, as the Terps could not get much going on either side of the pitch.

“Those are two players that bring a lot of stability to in the midfield,” senior midfielder Malcolm Johnston said. “Those are two crucial pieces that we want to get back healthy for the NCAA Tournament.”

2. Griffith continues to impress. The freshman received significant playing time in Maryland’s last match against Northwestern and made the most of it. After a scoreless first half, Griffith gave the Terps a spark of energy as he snuck past the defense and scored Maryland’s lone goal of the match. Griffith’s impressive play garnered him a spot in the starting lineup against Indiana and he yet again scored the Terps’ only goal.

“He’s competing hard. He’s holding the ball, obviously scored a nice goal today, and he was a menace throughout. [He] worked real hard, so I was pleased with his effort,” Cirovski said.

3. Griffin Dillon will miss the first NCAA Tournament game. After receiving his second yellow card in the 75th minute, Dillon was not only disqualified from Wednesday’s game but also will be forced to miss the Terps’ first game in the NCAA Tournament. He has been a mainstay in Maryland’s midfield this season and will be missed as the Terps look to avoid a second straight first-round upset in the national tournament.

“I contemplated taking him out when he had the one yellow card, but we needed him in there being a couple goals down, and we took a risk and the risk didn’t pay off,” Cirovski said. “That’s gotta be a learning moment for him to be a little bit smarter.”