After midfielder Amar Sejdic saw the ball in the back of the net in the 77th minute of Maryland men’s soccer’s game against West Virginia on Monday, he got up off the ground and sprinted toward his sideline’s corner flag.
The senior slid on his knees as his teammates leapt off the bench and swarmed him with a barrage of hugs.
Defender Chase Gasper — credited with the assist — raised his fists into the air and looked to the sky, as if a prayer had been answered in the 77th minute at Ludwig Field.
The two captains met for a quick embrace before Sejdic moved on with a wide smile on his face.
For the first time in the 2018 campaign, there was a reason for the Terps to celebrate.
“To get rewarded with the goal that we feel we finally deserved, it’s a huge weight off our shoulders,” Gasper said. “It was just a great feeling to see a smile on everybody’s faces.”
That Maryland’s attack began the season sluggishly wasn’t a complete surprise. The Terps ended the 2017 season with only two goals over their final six games, then lost three of their top four scorers.
Entering 2018, only three players — Sejdic and forwards Sebastian Elney and DJ Reeves — had more than two goals in their college careers.
Maryland’s early-season schedule didn’t make it any easier. The Terps faced three ranked foes, followed by two others who were receiving votes in the United Soccer Coaches poll.
Still, few observers could’ve predicted that the offense would struggle this much. Entering Monday’s matchup, Maryland was on the program’s longest scoring drought to start a season. The Terps were also without Elney, who has now missed two games with an ankle injury.
But when Gasper played his cross into a dangerous area and Sejdic redirected it past Mountaineers goalkeeper Steven Tekesky, the frustrating drought came to an end. On their 52nd shot, the Terps finally broke through, and the pressure from 51 failures was alleviated.
“Not only do I deserve to celebrate for that,” Sejdic said, “but I think our entire team can just take a deep breath now and just kind of focus that we’re forward.”
After scoreless ties with Stanford and Virginia and losses to Washington and UCLA, coach Sasho Cirovski and numerous players guaranteed that goals were going to come soon. It took some adjustments, and the offense is still far from fluid, but they felt that just one would open the floodgates.
Freshmen Brett St. Martin and William James Herve notched their first starts Monday, while sophomore Matt Di Rosa made his first start of the year. It was a trio of changes Cirovski hinted were coming after Saturday’s loss to UCLA.
While those adjustments sparked more chances in the first half, it was a pair of senior captains that stepped up to break the offense’s cold spell late in the contest.
Immediately after the game, Cirovski thought a Mountaineers defender had knocked the ball in for an own goal, but Sejdic was credited with scoring after his back seemingly redirected Gasper’s cross into the net.
“I don’t care how it comes right now,” Cirovski said. “It’s the most beautiful goal I’ve seen all year.”