In the 67th minute of Maryland men’s soccer’s game against Virginia on Monday, midfielder William James Herve sprinted forward and fired a shot that rose just above the crossbar.
When the game reached overtime, forward Justin Gielen’s open header in the 109th minute went wide right of the frame, the Terps’ last chance at averting another scoreless draw.
The pair of freshman substitutes both nearly snapped the Terps’ scoreless streak, which now spans the first 310 minutes of the season. As it prepares for its fourth game, the team is still in search of its first goal — and win — of the 2018 campaign.
The freshman class wants to be the group that ends the drought.
“We’re all kind of rooting for each other to be the one guy that can finally break through and make that play that opens the floodgates,” Gielen said.
Maryland’s 2018 recruiting class ranked 12th in the country, according to Top Drawer Soccer. While none of the nine freshmen have started in any of the team’s three games, four have received substantial game action and created promising opportunities offensively.
Last year’s class mostly played in blowouts or against weak competition early in the season. But this year, the freshmen have begun their college careers against national title contenders, with all of Maryland’s games to this point coming against ranked foes.
Gielen, who is averaging 61 minutes per game, leads the team with six shots and three shots on goal. Herve put a shot on goal in overtime against Stanford, along with his near-miss against the Cavaliers. Forward Vinicius Lansade has played at least 20 minutes each game this season, and Brett St. Martin has filled in on the back line in two games.
“It’s a very short preseason. It takes some time to build relationships and to get their mental and physical preparation in the right place,” coach Sasho Cirovski said. “But I’ve been very pleased with all of our freshmen that have had a chance to play so far.”
Because the freshmen didn’t arrive on campus until the summer, they missed out on the team’s three-game exhibition trip in England in the spring. During the trip, the Terps returners built a closer bond, but that hasn’t made it any more difficult to acclimate new faces to the program.
“They got integrated quick, because it was just us on campus a lot of the time,” midfielder Andrew Samuels said. “So they would just come over to our apartments and dorms to hang out all the time. I think in the fall it just continued to grow during our team-building stuff.”
The Terps have begun without their most highly touted recruit, Brayan Padilla, who’s sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
The next opportunity for a freshman to score the first Maryland goal this season is Friday night against UCLA. Even if one of the older players ends up being the one to break the levy, the freshmen have played key minutes early in the season and grown together.
“It’s brought the freshman class together,” Gielen said. “Because we see the opportunity that we can make an impact on the team.”