Top-seeded Maryland Rallies Past Clemson

Nov. 10, 2012

GERMANTOWN, MD. - Maryland was down, but definitely not out.

Trailing fouth-seeded Clemson by a 1-0 score with less than seven minutes remaining in Friday night's Atlantic Coast Conference Men's Soccer Championship semifinal match, the top-seeded Terps rallied for a 2-1 win and a spot opposite second-seeded North Carolina in Sunday's noon championship game.

A crowd of 5,981 looked on as Patrick Mullins tied the score on a near-post strike from five yards out to tie the score at 1-1 with 6:31 left in regulation. Then, less than three minutes into the second overtime period, a corner kick by Maryland's Helge Leikvang caromed off a Clemson defender and into the net to lift Maryland (16-1-2) to victory.

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"I thought we played very well in the second half and were more aggressive and our skill level was higher ,'' said Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski, who earned his 300th career victory.  "We felt very confident that we would get the winning goal and continued to persevere through the overtime.  I have to give Clemson a tremendous amount of credit.  They have battled us and pushed up twice now.  They are not far from being a top team.

Clemson (6-9-5) needed a win on Friday night to keep alive its hopes of earning a spot in the NCAA Championship field. The Tigers struck first in the 24th minute when Ara Amirkhanian headed in a cross from Manolo Sanchez off the near post and into the net.

As time wound down in the second half, it appeared that lone score might be enough. Clutch defensive plays, particularly by goalkeeper Cody Mizell and defender Phanuel Kavita, repeatedly frustrated the Terps in their efforts to score.

But Mullins' goal off assists from Schillo Tshuma and Jake Pace with 6:31 remaining finally knotted the score and left the door open for the Terps to write their unorthodox ending in the second overtime.

"I don't think there was much panic out there," Mullins said. "I thought all year we have shown pretty good character as far as not panicking and still showing the urgency, but yet patience to wait for the right opportunities to get back in the game."

Clemson coach Mike Noonan felt his young team made strides despite the disappointing ending to their season.

"I think we're a resilient group, and I think we're still young and we're still developing,"  Noonan said. "We put (Clemson's players') feet to the fire throughout the course of the year going away from home more than most ACC teams do and facing the best teams in the country. That was the purpose, and at the end of the year we were playing our best. What's upsetting is that we can't continue to play."

Maryland will be seeking its fifth ACC title since the league began determining its champion via tournament format in 1987. The Terps' last title came in 2010, when they edged North Carolina 1-0 in the championship game.

The regular-season matchup between the Terps and UNC lived up to its billing, with Maryland claiming a 1-0 overtime win at College Park on Oct. 19. Tshuma's score off an assist from Mullins provided spelled the difference.

"I think this is the sexy (matchup) for Sunday" Cirovksi said.  "It's what everyone wants to see and we are delighted that we are a part of it.  It will be a different type of game than the one tonight.  I think tonight was a track meet, and Sunday will be a little bit of a track meet but a little more of a chess match. 

"We have tremendous respect for them.  We had one of the best college games of the year against them earlier this year, now it's time to recover and get ready for round two."