After losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2021, No. 20 Maryland men’s soccer begins the 2022 season in College Park against No. 9 New Hampshire.
It has been three years since head coach Sasho Cirovski and the Terps brought home any hardware, and they are ready for that to change.
“Our goal is to bring back some trophies this year. We’ve gone three years without a trophy and I’m not happy about it,” Cirovski said. “Those goals have never changed and I’m not shying away from putting those out there to the public.”
Maryland’s quest for another trophy begins on Thursday at 6:00 p.m., when the Terps take on a challenging opponent in the first outing of the fall season. The game will air on ESPNU.
New Hampshire Wildcats (0-0)
2021 record: 17-2-2 (7-0-1 America East)
Head coach Marc Hubbard has brought the program to new heights, as the Wildcats have yet to produce a sub-10-win season under his control. He has dominated both conference and nonconference opponents, bringing New Hampshire its first three America East Tournament championships (2018, 2019 and 2020) and five straight NCAA Tournament appearances (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021) in just seven years. Hubbard has led the Wildcats to consecutive first-round byes in the NCAA Tournament and will look to do so again this season.
Players to know
Junior midfielder Yannick Bright has been a stud for the Wildcats in his first two seasons. Bright has played and started in all 31 games since joining the team, putting up a total of one goal and five assists. His versatility has not gone unnoticed, as he earned First-Team All-American and America East All-Conference First Team honors.
Graduate forward Tola Showunmi broke out last season when the Wildcats needed him most. He finished the year 24th in the nation in goals (10) and 19th in the nation in game-winning goals (4). Showunmi was a Third-Team All-American and America East All-Conference First Team member. He may be New Hampshire’s most game-breaking player.
Graduate forward Paul Mayer has been a cornerstone in New Hampshire’s soccer program over the last two seasons, finishing second on the team in points both years. The forward made the America East All-Conference First Team in back-to-back seasons and was a Third-Team All-American in 2020. As a player who can both score and set up his teammates — he scored six goals and dished out five assists last season — Mayer is a constant threat whenever he is on the pitch.
Experience. There is no denying that the Wildcats have a tremendous amount of experience spread across all positions on their roster. With a whopping nine graduate students on its team, New Hampshire will not get bent out of shape no matter what the Terps throw at them.
Fouling. Despite being so experienced, New Hampshire tends to get into foul trouble. The Wildcats committed 40 offside penalties and 299 fouls last season, which ranked first and second in their conference, respectively. If the Terps can find a way to use this to their advantage, they could generate multiple scoring opportunities.
Three things to watch
1. Who will be Maryland’s secondary scorer? Redshirt sophomore midfielder/forward Joshua Bolma will have complete control of the offense this season, but who will be the Robin to his Batman? The leading candidate seems to be senior forward Hunter George, who scored two of the Terps’ five preseason goals. George started in nine of his 15 appearances last season, collecting just one goal and one assist, which is bound to improve this year.
“Hunter is one of our players that can really unbalance a team with his dribbling and his passing. He’s a dynamic player, and when he’s feeling it he can change a game,” Cirovski said. “We’ve seen him grow as a player and his impact keeps getting better, and we’re certainly hopeful that he can continue his good form.”
2. How will the young guys be utilized? Maryland is welcoming nine freshmen to College Park, the most in three years. Cirovski has praised the maturity of this group, and with midfielder Ben Bender and defender Brett St. Martin joining the MLS, these newcomers should see some playing time. Look for players like forwards Max Riley and Ethan Gregory to get their names called.
“I think they came in a little bit shocked at how fast the game is and the level of intensity in the college game,” redshirt senior defender Nick Robinson said. “So, it’s been good to see how much quicker they’ve been playing.”
3. How will Maryland fare against a top-10 opponent? Cirovski wasted no time in challenging his squad, scheduling the season-opener against No. 9 New Hampshire. The Wildcats are elite on both sides of the pitch, as they ranked 10th in the nation in points per game (6.95) and fifth in save percentage (.808) last year. With multiple key departures this offseason, it will be interesting to see if the Terps can hit the ground running.
“We have a very, very difficult opening opponent in New Hampshire as well as a number of games in the first few weeks before the Big Ten regular season kicks off, and I’ve done that on purpose. We want to challenge our guys with some great games and we want to measure ourselves,” Cirovski said.