November 17, 2013, GERMANTOWN, Md. (ISN) – Maryland senior forward Patrick Mullins saved his heroics for almost the last in his final Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Soccer Championship.
With just under three minutes remaining and Sunday’s title match in a scoreless deadlock, Mullins beat his defender on the dribble on the left outside, worked his way into the box and drove a hard liner that ricocheted off the knee of Virginia’s Eric McBride and into the goal.
“I have seen it happen so many times,” said Mullins, the ACC’s leading scorer. “If you put the ball in good spots and play it in there with some pace, good things happen.”
The own goal with just 2:42 remaining in the match put Maryland up 1-0. And unlike Friday night’s semifinal in which the Cavaliers rallied late against Notre Dame, the top-seeded and nationally fourth-ranked Terrapins made the score hold up for a 1-0 victory and their 23rd ACC title.
“This is a special moment, one of the great moments in my coaching career,” Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said.
The Terrapins (13-3-5), playing in their final ACC Championship, claimed the title for the second consecutive year at the Maryland SoccerPlex to the delight of the partisan crowd. Maryland placed four players on the All-Tournament team, led by Mullins, the Most Valuable Player.
Virginia (10-5-5), seeded sixth in the tournament field but ranked 10th nationally, remains hopeful of joining Maryland as a high NCAA Tournament seed when pairings are announced Monday at noon. The Cavaliers held a 6-5 edge in shots in Sunday’s defensive struggle, though the Terrapins led 4-1 in corner kicks and had three shots on goal to Virginia’s one. Four Cavaliers also earned All-Tournament honors.
“These ACC Championship games, I think are always like this,” Virginia coach George Gelnovatch said. “In looking at the shots at 6 to 5, and I think a lot of it has to do with playing so many games. Playing a game Tuesday night, playing Friday night and then playing Sunday. In all of our cases, we’re playing national championship caliber teams.
“Three teams in five days. That’s what I think the games sometimes look like. I think my comment to TV at halftime was that it’s going to be one mistake. It was going to be a restart or a mistake or something like what happened. Take it for what it is and get ready for the next one.”
With both sides perhaps somewhat fatigued from Friday night’s semifinal games that went to extra time, the first half featured just three total shots and saw Maryland keeper Zack Steffen thwart the lone attempt on goal.
“It was a mental and physical challenge, but we stood strong,” Cirovski said. “We stood strong, and were very disciplined.”
Virginia missed out on a decent look less than four minutes into the second half when Ryan Zinkhan misfired on a bicycle kick off a throw-in in by Jordan Allen. Meanwhile, on the opposite end, 6-foot-5 Cavalier keeper Calle Brown continued to disrupt the Terrapins’ corner kick and crossing efforts in the box with his long reach.
With just under 32 minutes remaining, Maryland’s Michael Sauers found teammate Mikias Eticha for a s straight-on 15-yard try, but Brown was there for the save. Brown made another stop on Dan Metzger’s 8-yard attempt from the left side with just under 28 minutes on the clock.
With the match winding down to its final six minutes, Mullins got a good look from 10 yards out on the left wing, but the reigning MAC Hermann Award winner’s attempt sailed high.
But Mullins would get a second chance moments later, and he made the most of it to lift the Terrapins to the title.
“In 21 years, Maryland has never won back-to-ball ACC tournament titles and now this is senior Patrick Mullins’ third championship,” Cirovski noted. “That’s pretty incredible in the most competitive league in the nation. I’m just so proud. This is a special moment and one of the great moments in my coaching career to walk out of here as the last team smiling.”