With four games remaining in the regular season, the Maryland men’s soccer team was under .500 and ineligible for NCAA tournament consideration. If positive results didn’t start coming, the Terps would miss the tournament for the first time since 2000.

Six games later, coach Sasho Cirovski’s squad has earned the No. 11 overall seed in the tournament, despite not being ranked until this week.

Even after being on the brink of disaster about a month ago, the Terps feel they deserved the respect, first-round bye and second-round home game they received from the selection committee.

Thanks to four wins in its past six games, Maryland finished with a respectable 8-6-4 record against one of the most difficult schedules in the country. The team believes it can prove its journey has prepared it for the NCAA tournament.

“I thought we could potentially be as high as 10 and as low as 13,” Cirovski said. “We fell right about where I thought we would fall. It’s a great reward for the schedule we put together and the results we were able to get.”

[Read more: Maryland men’s soccer was lucky to force a shootout vs. Indiana, but got unlucky in it]

The Terps finished with the second-toughest schedule in the country, trailing only ACC tournament champion Louisville, which earned the No. 4 seed. Maryland played 12 games against teams that ended up making the tournament, six of which were other top-16 seeds.

Early in the season, that schedule appeared too daunting for Cirovski’s young squad. The Terps started 0-2-2 with no goals against Washington, Stanford, Virginia and UCLA — four teams that all received bids to the tournament.

While Maryland triumphed in three of its next four games, forward Justin Gielen didn’t feel a turning point until the team got its first ranked win of the season on its fourth attempt, a 3-1 victory at Coastal Carolina on Sept. 30.

“Before that game, we had spurts of attacking prowess, but in that game it was just consistent,” Gielen said. “We were getting a lot of opportunities and I think that was the major turning point for us in terms of confidence.”

[Read more: Maryland men’s soccer receives No. 11-seed in NCAA tournament, first-round bye]

After being held goalless in their first four games, the worst mark to start a season in program history, the Terps found the net in 12 of their last 14. While the offense — ranked 130th in the country — still struggled to score in bunches, the increased efficiency earned them ranked wins over No. 15-seed Denver and at-large bid Michigan State.

Midfielder Amar Sejdic said that despite those wins — and an RPI that ranks No. 12 in the nation — the team’s overall record made its tournament placement surprising. But he also believes Maryland’s 8-6-4 finish isn’t reflective of its talent.

“I guarantee we surprised a lot of teams based on being No. 11,” Sejdic said. “But when you see the type of players we have in the system, then it shouldn’t be a surprise, because we’re capable of beating anybody.”

The Terps navigated that schedule while battling injuries that meant Cirovski used his ideal starting lineup for only two games. Defender Chase Gasper missed six games with a back injury, and his return Oct. 12 put the team at full strength. But midfielder William James Herve hurt his foot five minutes into the next game.

Maryland hasn’t put together its full lineup again since, with Gasper and defenders Donovan Pines and Johannes Bergmann missing time in the Big Ten tournament.

The frequent shifts have required the Terps to build depth, so regardless of who’s in the starting lineup, the team has confidence it can produce a result with them. And regardless of who comes to College Park on Sunday — either NC State or Campbell — Cirovski believes his team’s schedule has made it ready and worthy to enter the tournament as a top-16 seed.

“We’re built tough right now and we’re prepared for Sunday’s challenge,” Cirovski said. “We’ll be prepared and we’re excited to be at home.”