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Maryland men’s soccer turned a down year into a national championship

This is the Maryland Championship Minute, a short celebration followed by a roundup of Terps-related news.

NCAA Soccer: DI Men’s College Cup-Maryland vs Akron Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

It was this Maryland men’s soccer team?

The one that started the year with 476 scoreless minutes? The one that started 0-2-2 and was 4-5-3 on Oct. 12? The one that wasn’t ranked all season until after the Big Ten tournament?

Yep. This year’s Maryland squad rallied in the second half of the season, earned the No. 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament, then ran the tables. The Terps beat NC State at home in the round of 32. Then they knocked out No. 6 Duke in Durham. Then they upset No. 3 Kentucky in Lexington. In Santa Barbara, the third time proved to be the charm against No. 2 Indiana, and Maryland was in control all night against Akron. The 1-0 win secured the program’s fourth national championship.

It still doesn’t make much sense.

Maryland’s last two teams undoubtedly carried more firepower. The 2016 squad entered the NCAA Tournament 18-0-2, but blew a 4-1 lead at home to Providence in its first NCAA Tournament game. Last year’s Terps started 10-0-3, but lost five straight matches and was eliminated from the NCAAs by Albany in the first round. The closest this year’s seniors had come to playing in a College Cup was in 2015, when the Terps fell to Clemson in penalty kicks in the round of eight.

The Terps also lost most their top three scorers after the 2017 collapse. Forwards Gordon Wild and Eryk Williamson left with eligibility remaining to start professional careers, while midfielder Jake Rozhansky graduated. The defense remained largely intact and was always going to be the strength of this year’s team, but the attack was a serious question mark entering the season. Maryland’s slow start only exacerbated those uncertainties.

But this group never folded. It got better. Freshman William James Herve and junior Paul Bin stepped up in crucial moments, and Sejdic led the attack through the postseason. The defense went from good to great, helping star goalie Dayne St. Clair pitch a shutout for the final 499 minutes of the season. After that 4-5-3 start, Maryland broke out for a 9-1-1 finish.

Sasho Cirovski is one of the greatest coaches in college soccer history. He’s now won three national titles at Maryland, with the previous championships coming in 2005 and 2008. But to turn this team into a College Cup winner might be his crowning achievement.

More from the College Cup

Scott Van Pelt is happy, as he should be.

ESPN’s Taylor Twellman played at Maryland from 1998-99, and was ecstatic to watch his alma mater win another title.

DMV soccer respects DMV soccer.

Five Terps made the All-College Cup team.

Here’s what the final seconds sounded like from our friends at WMUC Sports.

The Crew held a watch party at Looney’s, and it was a fantastic scene.

In other news

Maryland basketball picked up a bounce-back victory over Loyola-Chicago on Saturday, winning a rather sloppy 55-41 game.

The Terps returned to Baltimore with two Charm City products in their starting lineup. The significance of that wasn’t lost on anyone.

Here’s Lila with the best photos from that game.

Back in College Park, Maryland women’s basketball thumped James Madison by 24 points on Saturday. The Terps host Loyola-Maryland this morning at 11 a.m. ET for field trip day.

The wrestling team is shorthanded early in the season, and the Terps are off to an 0-3 start. This weekend, Maryland lost home duals against Navy and Central Michigan.

And we’ll probably know a lot more about Maryland football’s coaching staff by the end of this week. Here’s an overview of the tasks awaiting new head coach Mike Locksley.