Coach Sasho Cirovski never shied away from discussing the Maryland men’s soccer team’s lofty expectations this season.

In the preseason, the veteran coach said this year’s squad was one of the best he’s coached. Even as the Terps rode through their first undefeated regular season since 1968, Cirovski said the success didn’t mean much without a national championship.

But just as the team was beginning its national championship pursuit, No. 1-seed Maryland collapsed. It gave up a 4-1 lead to Providence in the final 20 minutes of its second-round NCAA tournament match.

The Terps earned 12 one-goal victories this season, but it was their one-goal loss to the Friars that ended their season.

“I’m very frustrated with how sometimes we take the foot off the gas and let other teams breathe and start having chances,” Cirovski said. “I often said throughout the year we wish we would lose one just so we could feel the heartbreak and learn to close out some of these games. When you’re in one, you never want to lose one. Unfortunately now we’re feeling that pain.”

The Terps returned with eight starters from last season, when they lost to Clemson in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals, but they had to deal with the graduation of midfielders Tsubasa Endoh and Mael Corboz, who combined for 32 points in 2015.

Yet Cirovski replaced their production by bringing in two talented transfers in forward Gordon Wild and midfielder Jake Rozhansky. Maryland’s offense displayed its prowess from the start of the season, scoring the second-most goals per game in the nation (2.52).

While forward Sebastian Elney and midfielder Eryk Williamson were Maryland’s top returning scorers, Wild and midfielder Amar Sejdic emerged as the Terps’ best offensive players, combining for 66 points.

“I’m feeling bad for our seniors,” Wild said after the NCAA tournament loss. “Our seniors can be proud of what we achieved this season. We played a great [Big Ten] tournament, but nobody expected this outcome.”

The offense remained consistent throughout the year, but the Terps’ defense faltered at times. Before the season, Cirovski predicted the Terps backline would develop into one of the best units in the country with three senior starters and a redshirt senior goalkeeper.

After struggling to defend counterattacks at the beginning of the year, Maryland’s defense seemed to reach its potential by midseason when it tied a program-best five-game shutout streak. But then Cirovski said his team lost its “defensive identity,” and it never returned to shutting down opponents.

Maryland allowed 17 goals in its final nine matches and never solved how to stop counterattacks. Defense, which Cirovski said is the most important foundation to postseason success, failed the Terps in their elimination contest. They struggled to clear the ball and close out on attackers, allowing the Friars to score four goals in about 13 minutes. The Terps gave up five goals for the first time since 2008 and surrendered that many at home for the first time since 1993, Cirovski’s first year with the program.

Throughout the season, the Terps gave up leads that put them at risk of losing their first match. Five times, they faced a deficit in the final 10 minutes. But behind a potent attack, Maryland scored after 17 of the 19 goals it allowed entering its final contest.

They couldn’t muster up a goal, though, when it mattered most.

“They’re obviously a quality, quality opponent,” Providence coach Craig Stewart said. “Sometimes being undefeated, a lot of people say you can’t go undefeated the whole season, so you spin it that it’s a positive for us. They had a fantastic season. It’s a shame to those guys that it comes to an end.”

Maryland will need to rebuild its defense next season, and though the Terps don’t have senior starters in their attack, some players may have opportunities to forgo their eligibility and jump to the MLS or play professionally overseas.’s Will Parchman said Wild, a sophomore who tied for the second most goals in the nation (17) this season, is the most MLS-ready forward in college.

Meanwhile, defenders Donovan Pines and Miles Stray, goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair and midfielder Keegan Kelly should all see expanded roles next season after spending the majority of their time on the bench.

With so much talent this year, though, Cirovski foresaw the Terps making a strong push for their first national championship since 2008. That accomplishment seemed plausible the whole season after the Terps won the Big Ten regular season and tournament championship. But 20 minutes of underperforming ended Maryland’s dream.

“I feel so empty for our players, our fans, who’ve enjoyed the spectacular season,” Cirovski said. “It’s just a hard one to process. We are just left to wonder what could’ve been.”