The Maryland men’s soccer team entered the 2017 postseason coming off four consecutive losses, after opening the year with a 13-game unbeaten streak. The sky was suddenly falling on a team that had cruised through the first months of the year.

Its 5-4 triumph over Wisconsin on Oct. 13 was its highest-scoring game of the year, but more importantly was its final win of the year. The Terps only scored twice in the ensuing five-game win streak before a penalty-kick loss to Albany in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

This year, the trend is reversed, despite ending the regular season with a loss Sunday. Maryland has three wins in its last four games and has scored in its last five.

So even as the No. 5-seed, the outlook is far more positive for this year’s Big Ten tournament than it was in 2017.

“It’s a much better mood of the team. We’ve played really well the entire last month,” coach Sasho Cirovski said. “Last year, we were searching for answers. There was a little lack of confidence inside the locker room.”

[Read more: Three Maryland men’s soccer players earned Big Ten postseason honors]

The late adversity floored the team a season ago. Unbeaten until mid-October, it failed to recover from its downward spiral, which included a five-game injury to starting left back Chase Gasper.

This year’s squad has seen incredible highs and devastating lows while battling injuries, illnesses and near-collapses. The Terps have yet to give up three goals in a game this year, meaning it only has a pair of multi-goal losses despite an attack that struggled mightily to begin the year.

[Read more: For Maryland men’s soccer, a Big Ten tournament game on the road is no sweat]

Maryland’s played seven overtime games and notched wins over then-No. 7 Denver and then-No. 18 Coastal Carolina, but have overtime losses to unranked Wisconsin and Michigan.

The Terps believe the tough schedule and emotional swings of the season leave them well-prepared for the conference tournament.

“We had a really tough schedule and RPI so we just have to stay positive,” defender Donovan Pines said. “We’re playing against the best teams in the nation every week. It’s a good test and we have all the capabilities of beating every team that we face this year.”

Maryland’s six draws this year show how tight its games have been. A pair of 2-0 losses — one in the first game of the season against Washington and the other to Michigan State — remain the Terps’ largest margins of defeat.

Maryland had a 7-6-3 record the seventh-toughest schedule in the country. The top five teams are all in the ACC, the strongest soccer conference in the country.

“It builds character,” forward Sebastian Elney said. “You want to be playing the best competition, best teams out there. That’s definitely what we’ve done and so now we can face anyone and we can be on the field with anyone.”

While last year’s team struggled down the stretch and lacked the chemistry in the final third to finish its chances, this year’s group has built up connections as the season’s progressed.

It’s taken time to jell as a unit, but the grueling slate has helped facilitate relationships, so the team is much different than the one that opened the season in Washington on Aug. 24, a game six underclassmen played in.

“We’re a much tighter group, very close-knit,” Elney said. “That’s what happens when you play all those games and go through the season, traveling all around. You just become tighter and closer and that’s what we’ve done. That’s what we’ve become.”

When Maryland takes the field Sunday in East Lansing, it’ll have a chance to avenge it’s 2-0 home loss Oct. 5, which was what Cirovski called “one of their lesser efforts” of the year.

But in a season of triumphant highs and crushing lows, the Terps’ confidence hasn’t wavered, entering a game that might determine whether they reach their 18th consecutive NCAA tournament.

“We’re fighting together as a unit and we’re playing together as a unit,” Pines said. “Focusing on all plays and stepping as a team, pressing and creating opportunities as a team. We’re believing in each other the whole time.”