The Maryland faithful cheered as senior Casey Townsend made his way to the sideline, as reserve forward Jake Pace ran onto the field to take his place. Townsend clapped his hands in the chill on a damp Sunday night; a burden was slowly falling off his shoulders.
A mere two minutes earlier, Townsend had streaked up the middle of the field for a one-on-one with West Virginia keeper Pat Eavenson and calmly floated it over his head for the score.
That goal drove a stake through the heart of the Mountaineers (11-7-1) and capped off a Townsend hat trick to put the Terps up 4-0 in their second round game of the NCAA Tournament.
But more importantly, that goal marked the return of the high-powered Terrapin attack, which had been hiding in a shell for over a month. It was back, at least for one game.
“It feels good to win again,” said a relieved Sasho Cirovski. “I expected us to be very good tonight…it was certainly one of the most complete performances of the season.”
Maryland outshot West Virginia 19-5 on the night and came out firing early. They were rewarded in the 20th minute after Helge Leikvang hit a booming send into the box, which managed to sneak past Eavenson, giving Townsend an open net goal from three yards out.
Yet, the deciding goal came in the 60th minute after Sunny Jane flipped a pass to Jereme Raley, who sent a perfect cross deep in the box that Townsend again finished from three yards out.
According to WVU coach Marlon LeBlanc that was the goal that “broke our backs.”
By the end of the night, Townsend had jumped from sixth on the school’s all-time scoring list to fourth. And despite him and his team having gone through a painful scoring slump, he claims their plan never changed.
“My mindset and everyone else’s was if they get a chance they think they’re going to score,” he said. “I don’t think that’s changed for us. We were all confident and we knew that we could score and it was just going to be a matter of time and today they went in.”
Tonight’s Terps (14-3-3) looked nothing like the Maryland team that had been booted from the first round of the ACC Tournament by Boston College or a team that had failed to score more than two goals in over a month. Both figuratively and literally.
The No. 5 seeded Maryland started redshirt freshman Marquez Fernandez in the backline and was forced to play midfielder Leikvang there as well after senior center back Alex Lee went down early. But the biggest difference was the player barking orders between the posts.
True freshman Keith Cardona earned a start over fifth year senior Will Swaim.
“I thought he did awesome, he looked confident. He had a good week of training and we put our faith in him and its paying off. I expect him to do nothing but grow and get better from this point on,” said junior defender Taylor Kemp of Cardona.
Cirovski said he had a “gut-feeling” to go with the freshman who he said had been playing outstanding in practice. It will be interesting to see who gets the start in the third round matchup, against the winner of Louisville/Bradley.
Whoever that may be, they will be playing in front of a friendly crowd, after the No.4 seed, Boston College, was upset by a hot Rutgers team, guaranteeing the Terps home field advantage until the semifinals.
The team that could not find the back of the net to save their season, a squad hobbled by injuries and suspensions, and was on the brink of collapse now find themselves in great position to make a run to the College Cup in Hoover, Alabama.
Player of the Game: There was no doubt that Casey Townsend was the best player on that field Sunday night. He registered his second hat trick of the season in a do or die game in the NCAA Tournament. No one was more frustrated than the senior leader and he put the Terps on his back tonight. If Maryland wins the Title, this will be the performance that can be pointed to as the one that re-ignited this team.