The Maryland men’s soccer team entered the 2012 season with three goals in mind.
Coach Sasho Cirovski and the Terps travel to Hoover, Ala., on Friday for a matchup with Georgetown in the College Cup.
Pinned up in the Terps’ locker room is a list:
1) Win the ACC regular season.
2) Win the ACC Championship.
3) Win the national championship.
As players file in and out of the locker room this week, two of those three goals have been marked off with a check, but a third still remains: Win the national championship.
The Terps (20-1-2), who head to Hoover, Ala., this Friday for a matchup against Georgetown (19-3-2) in the College Cup semifinals, are just two more wins away from completing their entire preseason checklist.
“Our goal every year is to get to the College Cup and contend for national titles,” coach Sasho Cirovski said. “There’s always an empty feeling if we’re not playing in the final weekend. For us to be back where we belong is a great source of pride, but we’re not content with just being there. That’s not the end game for our program. We’re hoping when it’s all said and done that we’re the last team standing.”
“All the hard work we put in this summer has really paid off,” midfielder John Stertzer added. “Being able to continue this journey has been unbelievable.”
Maryland topped Louisville, 3-1, last week to advance to the program’s 12th College Cup and first since 2008, which was also the last time the Terps won the national championship.
Led by Stertzer, who was named an All-American last season, forward Patrick Mullins, who leads the team in goals (16), assists (eight) and points (40), and defenders Taylor Kemp and London Woodberry, the Terps are seeking the program’s fourth national championship this weekend in college soccer’s final weekend of action.
It’s a place Cirovski and his players not only feel they belong, but it’s also somewhere they anticipate having some success.
“I don’t know if we have clutch factor, but we have championship fiber,” Cirovski said. “These guys know how to win. We’ve shown it all year long. Whatever it takes, discipline or resiliency, they have championship fiber inside them. We’ve proven it with results already, and we have one more opportunity this weekend to continue to prove it.”
Standing in the Terps way, though is Georgetown. The Hoyas are making their first appearance in the College Cup, and Friday’s game will be the first meeting between the two local rivals since 2009, when the Terps won 2-1.
“I know a couple guys on [Georgetown] from club,” Stertzer said. “It’s going to be great to see the progress each of us has made and now playing on the biggest stage in college soccer is going to be a great opportunity.”
Led by Brandon Allen, who has scored 15 goals this season, the Hoyas topped San Diego, 3-1, in their quarterfinal match last week.
“Georgetown has had a historical year, really a great year,” Cirovski said. “Their coaches and their staff have done a fantastic job. They deserve to be there. They’ve had a great run. They have some outstanding individual players who have a shot at playing at the next level. They’re worthy of their seeding and their place in the College Cup. We expect this will be a tremendous game. Obviously a lot of intrigue with the local rivalry. We know a lot of their players.”
Despite who they’re playing, the Terps haven’t paid much attention to their opponent this week in practice. Instead, Cirovski and his players have put the focus on themselves in an effort to continue to play Maryland soccer and, in the process, finish off their preseason checklist.
Maryland has gone through plenty of success this season, but the year isn’t quite over. The Terps know they still have one goal left to accomplish.
“Our goal wasn’t to make the College Cup,” Cirovski said. “That wasn’t one of our three goals. We’re still hunting our last goal. We know we’ve had a great year. It should be celebrated … but we know what’s ahead of us and what we want to get done this weekend.”