SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — The third time really is the charm.
After failing to defeat Indiana in its first two tries, Maryland men’s soccer knocked off the No. 2-seed Hoosiers, 2-0, to advance to the national championship match for the first time since 2013. The No. 11-seed Terrapins will face Akron in Sunday’s final.
Sophomore Matt Di Rosa’s role has grown by the match this season with injuries to the rest of the squad, but entering the College Cup, he had yet to score a goal in his career. That all changed in the 37th minute when his left-footed strike barreled through an Indiana defender’s deflection and found the back of the net.
For the fourth match in a row, the Maryland back line refused to concede a single goal to the opposition. The defense was stifling throughout the match, and in the few instances where the Hoosiers got a quality look on goal, Dayne St. Clair was there to kill the opportunity. The redshirt junior tallied three saves and was perfect at every turn.
Neither offense could find its footing early on, as a combined four shots were taken through the first 30-plus minutes of action. In the 32nd minute, Eric Matzelevich subbed on for Sebastian Elney, and the Maryland offense found a spark.
Eli Crognale took a corner kick in the 37th minute, and his pass found Di Rosa after a deflection. Standing on the right side of the box, the sophomore ripped a left-footed rocket towards Trey Muse and the Indiana defense. Cory Thomas was able to get his leg in front of the shot, but the ball caromed into the back of the net to give the Terrapins the lead.
Indiana nearly scored an equalizer in the 44th minute thanks to Griffin Dorsey. The sophomore made a run down the right side of the field and fired a shot at St. Clair. The 6’4 keeper used all of his height to snatch the ball out of the air and send the Terps into halftime with a 1-0 lead.
After Maryland controlled the pace through the first 45 minutes, the Hoosier attack began to find its groove after the break. And in the 62nd minute, Indiana nearly tied the score. Spencer Glass had a clear shot on net at point-blank range, but at the last possible second, Ben Di Rosa came flying in to block the shot and clear it out of harm’s way. The Hoosiers were still scoreless, but they were getting close.
In the 68th minute, Glass nearly scored once again. This time, he was near the edge of the left side of the box when he rifled a ball towards the goal. However, for the second time in a row, Ben Di Rosa came in with a slide to ricochet the ball out of play.
Just as it seemed that an equalizing goal was bound to occur, the Terps struck to ice the victory. Crognale’s free kick was lofted into the box, but Timmy Mehl was right there to clear it away. But the redshirt senior failed to make solid contact, and the ball found the right foot of Pines on the back end. The center back tapped it towards Muse, but his shot rolled directly through the goalkeeper’s legs and hit the back of the net. After struggling to fend off the Hoosiers, Maryland suddenly led 2-0.
Indiana pushed hard late in the match, but the Terps’ insurance goal took the wind out of the Hoosiers’ sails. They failed to beat St. Clair even once on the night, and Maryland advanced to the national championship.
Three things to know
1. Back to the national championship. Over the past four seasons, Maryland has struggled in the NCAA Tournament, losing in the first round two times. But for the first time since 2013, the Terrapins have advanced to the final match of the season. Five years ago, they fell to Notre Dame. This time around, Maryland will face off against Akron for the first time since 2015. Sunday’s match is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET and can be watched on ESPNU.
2. Maryland scored first. Neither defense had conceded a single goal in the NCAA Tournament thus far, but late in the first half, that all changed. When Di Rosa’s shot found the back of the net, Maryland scored the first goal for the fourth straight match. And the last ten times the Terrapins have drawn first blood, they have emerged victorious.
3. The back line continued its excellence. For those keeping track, Maryland has played four matches in the NCAA Tournament. It has yet to allow a goal in 360 minutes of action. Indiana’s attack was able to find a number of looks in the second half, but each time, the defense held steady and Dayne St. Clair was where he needed to be.