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Maryland soccer vs. Providence preview: Terps open NCAA Tournament at home

The top-seeded Terps are fresh off a bye.

Matthew Regan

Maryland men’s soccer kicks off the second round of the 2016 NCAA men’s soccer tournament against the Providence Friars Sunday at Ludwig Field. The Terps, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, earned a first-round bye after winning both the Big Ten regular season title and Big Ten tournament.

The Friars are coming off a first-round home win against Delaware. Goals from Brandon Rearden and Julian Gressel ensured the 2-0 victory. Providence goalkeeper Colin Miller posted his and the team’s eighth shutout of the year against the Blue Hens.

Scouting the opposition

Julian Gressel, midfielder: The captain has scored 12 goals and dished out five assists this year, and leads all Providence players with 29 points. The German native has been named the Big East Co-Offensive Player of the year, and has been instrumental for the Friars this season. With five game-winning goals, including the goal against St. John’s that gave Providence its first regular season championship in program history, Gressel is second all-time in Friars history with 76 points in his career.

Danny Griffin, midfielder: Griffin has six goals in 16 starts this season. The midfielder, a Big East All-Freshman selection, is second among his teammates and five of his six goals have come in game-winning situations.

Colin Miller, goalkeeper: The redshirt sophomore holds a 12-1 record in his debut season, and was named Big East Co-Goalkeeper of the Year. Miller has recorded eight clean sheets in his 12 appearances in 2016, and has only allowed six goals all season. The Maryland native ranks third in the nation in goals against average (0.457), and second in save percentage (0.889).

The Friars have fielded a young team this year. The starting lineup consists of eight underclassmen, including four freshmen and four sophomores. Four of the five freshmen who have seen the pitch have contributed to the scoresheet at least once.

In the second round, Providence is 1-4 all-time and 1-1 under head coach Craig Stewart. Stewart’s lone loss in the tournament came in 2013, a 3-0 loss against the Terps at Ludwig Field.

Maryland (18-0-2) won its fifth straight conference crown last Sunday against Wisconsin, beating the Badgers 2-1 at Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana.

Senior defender Alex Crognale and sophomore forward Gordon Wild won Defensive Player of the Tournament and Offensive Player of the Tournament honors, respectively. With the win, the top-seeded Terrapins received an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. This is Maryland’s 16th consecutive appearance, and 34th trip in program history.

Head coach Sasho Cirovski fields an experienced team, and if the Terps defense is able to stop Gressel from spreading the ball, they should easily handle the Friars. The attack’s work will be cut out for it with Miller in goal, but an early score could give the back line the necessary confidence boost to prevent defensive lapses, as Maryland has had a problem this year with conceding cheap goals.

The Terps boast an 11-0 record at Ludwig Field this season. A raucous home atmosphere will play a big role in throwing off the visitors, but either way, this Maryland team is vastly more talented and should win this game handily.

Kickoff is set for 5 p.m., and the match will be broadcast on BTN2Go.