Maryland men’s soccer is heading to the College Cup. The No. 11 Terrapins advanced to the national semifinals in Santa Barbara, California, after a 1-0 road victory over No. 3 Kentucky on Friday night in Lexington.
Senior Sebastian Elney scored the clinching goal against North Carolina State in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament two weeks ago, and in the 29th minute against the Wildcats, Elney took an Amar Sejdic pass to the right side of the box and delivered a beautiful strike past Enrique Facusse to give the Terps a 1-0 lead.
The match was extremely physical, and Maryland in particular was uncharacteristically undisciplined on the defensive end. The Terrapins averaged 11.2 fouls coming into play, but against the Wildcats, they committed 15 infractions. They also received two yellow cards, as Eric Matzelevich and Ben Di Rosa were penalized.
The rough style of play began immediately, as the two sides combined for six fouls within the first 15 minutes of action. Neither attack could get anything working until the 19th minute, when Marcel Meinzer forced Dayne St. Clair to make a sliding stop.
Just 10 minutes later, the Terps had their first scoring chance of the night. Sejdic’s scoring ability has been on full display this tournament, but on Friday night, he made a crucial pass to Elney to give Maryland the lead. The captain led his fellow senior to the right side of the box, and after a key touch by Elney before ripping a shot past Facusse, Maryland held a 1-0 lead.
GOOOOOOAAAALLL!!— Maryland Soccer (@MarylandMSoccer) November 30, 2018
Seba with a pretty finish after some fantastic build up. 1-0. #FearTheTurtle pic.twitter.com/vBsV3EErae
Kentucky’s play improved after the halftime break, as the offense registered six shots compared to just three in the opening 45 minutes. In the 49th minute, Aime Mabika played through a questionable non-handball call and had a quality look on net, but his chance deflected off the left post.
In the 57th minute, the Terps nearly got a crucial insurance goal on a header from Eric Matzelevich. Eli Crognale gave the sophomore a perfect ball on a corner kick, but Facusse was in the right spot to make a stop. Maryland continued to push for a game-clinching score, but the attack couldn’t penetrate Kentucky’s defense. That put the match in the hands of its back line, a situation the Terrapins are extremely familiar with.
Kentucky failed to test St. Clair really at all on the night, but in the 78th minute, the Wildcats nearly broke through. Star forward JJ Williams made a run towards the goal, and he fired a shot into a line of defenders. Mabika sent a rebound shot back into the defense, and Donovan Pines was there to block it. However, the velocity on the ball sent the shot on a hard path to the goal, and St. Clair had to make a diving stop to knock it out of harm’s way.
In the 87th minute, Williams nearly put home a header to break the Terps’ hearts late, but Pines, who nearly scored an own-goal less than 10 minutes earlier, did enough to disrupt the header and the shot went high of the crossbar.
The Wildcats made a late push in the closing minutes, but nothing of substance could be found. After 90 minutes of a grueling battle, the Terrapins were victorious.
Three things to know
1. Sebastian Elney had a signature moment. The man of two game-winning goals in overtime against UCLA in his Maryland career knows how to come up clutch in a big match, and the senior was the hero on Friday night. In the 29th minute, he gave the Terps a 1-0 lead that they would never relinquish, and thanks to his score, they are on to the College Cup.
2. An own goal nearly blew the lead. Donovan Pines has been terrific all year for Maryland, but he nearly scored on Dayne St. Clair to tie the score. Aime Mabika had a look on net following a rebound, but the junior center back intercepted it. However, his deflection sent the ball straight at St. Clair, who made a diving stop to keep Kentucky off the scoreboard.
3. The Terps are moving on. That’s three NCAA Tournament matches won for Maryland, and the back line has yet to allow a single goal. The Terrapins have outscored their opponents 5-0, and they are playing their best soccer of the season at the best possible time. On Friday night in Santa Barbara, Maryland will face the No. 2-seeded Indiana Hoosiers. Indiana won both matches, once in regulation and once in a shootout in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
This story has been updated to reflect Maryland playing No. 2-seed Indiana in the Final Four.