Men’s soccer falls to Maryland in NCAA Tournament

The Virginia men’s soccer team’s 2015 campaign began with much promise — the Cavaliers welcomed one of the top recruiting classes in the country — but ended prematurely as weaknesses doomed them at the least opportune time when they needed just one win to renew their postseason rivalry with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the NCAA Quarterfinals.

The Cavaliers (10-5-3) fell 1-0 Sunday against tenth-seeded Maryland (11-5-5) in College Park, Maryland leaving Virginia looking for answers as it failed to defend the 2014 College Cup Title. Although playing in familiar territory — just a bus ride from Charlottesville — Virginia looked severely outmatched, unable to make an impact on the game or play its trademark counter-attacking style.

Although only losing by a single goal, Virginia was out of character, committing more fouls than its opponent — 13 to the Terrapins’ 12 — for just the fourth time this season. Additionally, the Virginia defense — which ranks sixth in the ACC with .96 goals allowed per game — was exploited early and often, as Maryland was able to unleash 23 shots, six of which were on goal.

The Terrapins were able to break through in the 38th minute, after freshman forward Eryk Williamson finished from inside the six-yard box off a dangerous free kick from senior midfielder Mael Corboz from 30 yards out.

Though Maryland was defending their lead for over 50 minutes, the Cavaliers were never able to gain separation and create chances on goal. Down a goal, they looked to press as the minutes wore on, but their pressure was ineffective, as they found themselves tenuously preserving a single goal deficit rather than creating chances in the Terrapins’ 18-yard box.

The spirited effort fell short, however, as Maryland was able to advance, knocking out Virginia as the first of the deep ACC field to lose in the tournament.

Although the Cavaliers bowed out in just the second round this season — a disappointing result following last season’s College Cup title — the program, and the devoted fan base, have plenty to look forward to in the coming years. While the departure of Wharton and senior forward Marcus Salandy-Defour will leave a dent in the Virginia starting XI, the Cavaliers can be confident that their host of freshman contributors will develop into star players, as they look to bring the national title back to Charlottesville.

As for Wharton and Salandy-Defour, their tenures in the men’s soccer program will be remembered as transformative and formidable. They not only won a championship but also laid the groundwork for future success in Charlottesville.

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