When the Maryland men’s soccer team visited Madison, Wisconsin, to play the Badgers on Oct. 13, the Terps’ season was going according to plan.
That night, Maryland withstood a last-minute comeback from the Badgers to win, 5-4, and remain undefeated and atop the Big Ten standings.
When No. 5-seed Wisconsin visited Ludwig Field for a rematch in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals, the Terps hadn’t won a game since that barn burner on a rainy night in Madison, falling from No. 3 to No. 23 in the rankings and slipping to the No.4-seed in the conference tournament.
The Badgers continued Maryland’s nightmare collapse with an 87th-minute goal that led them to a 2-1 win, handing the Terps their first Big Ten tournament loss in their four-year history in the conference.
“To allow a team to get the kind of goal they got in the last four to five minutes of the game is completely unacceptable,” coach Sasho Cirovski said. “It’s time for our players to take greater ownership in executing what they’re asked to do.”
The Terps will wait more than a week to learn their fate in the NCAA tournament. After going undefeated in the regular season and conference tournament last season, they earned the No. 1-overall seed.
This year, after their precipitous collapse, they may not host a single game.
“We’ve been snakebit,” Cirovski said. “We don’t deserve all these results. It might be one game we’ve been outplayed in in these five losses, and it really sucks.”
Badgers midfielder Mark Segbers finished a cross from Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Chris Mueller at the near post Sunday and pushed it past the outstretched arm of Maryland goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair with 3:39 left in the game.
“You never want to feel that, it doesn’t matter what point in time the game is,” St. Clair said. “But having only three minutes left to fight definitely hurts.”
Defender Miles Stray, who was closest to Segbers at the time of the goal, remained sprawled on the turf for close to 20 seconds after the score.
Stray likely wouldn’t have been on the field Sunday were it not for left back Chase Gasper re-injuring his left groin early in the Terps’ win in Madison and being unavailable for the past five games.
His absence has hindered the Terps’ defense greatly, Cirovski said. But the 25th-year coach said he’s more concerned with his attack’s lack of production after returning every forward and attacking midfield starter from last season.
In the 28th minute, forward Sebastian Elney gave the Terps their first lead since the losing streak began. Midfielder Jake Rozhansky’s cross deflected onto Elney’s right foot, and he took a touch and finished from close range.
That lead lasted until halftime, but the Badgers equalized shortly after the break. A Wisconsin corner kick bounced to Noah Leibold at the top of the box, and he dribbled forward past a couple of Maryland players before firing a low shot past St. Clair.
“There’s players that are supposed to be picking up guys at the top of the box,” Cirovski said. “We simply didn’t do the job. That’s a simple responsibility, and we had a blown assignment.”
St. Clair said he felt that score dispirited the Terps, but their attack still created chances after the Badgers drew even. Maryland outshot the Badgers 14-8, but Wisconsin goalkeeper Philipp Schilling make just three saves, none of which were particularly challenging.
In the 78th minute, forward Eric Matzelevich skied high an open shot.
Nine minutes later, Segbers snuck the winner in, the third late winner Maryland’s surrendered in its five-game skid.
“[Those] are mental moments,” Cirovski said. “We need to show a greater mental toughness if we are to have a chance to win the next game.”