Just as has been the case in recent years, Maryland forward Patrick Mullins delivered when his team needed him the most. With a spot in the College Cup final at stake, Mullins scored two goals as the Terrapins edged Virginia 2-1 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. on Friday evening to advance to face Notre Dame in the championship game.
Play was very even in the early portion of the first half. Both teams were feeling each other out in the early going and neither team registered a scoring chance through the first 10 minutes of play. Maryland goalkeeper Zach Steffen made one save during that time frame, just one of several key saves for the star freshman.
About 11 minutes into the semifinal match, Maryland midfielder Mikias Eticha lobbed a beautiful pass over the head of several Cavalier defenders and Mullins lifted the ball into the back of the net to give the Terrapins an early 1-0 lead. The goal was Mullins’ 45th in a Terp uniform.
Over the course of Mullins’ four-year Maryland career, the Terps have a 32-1-5 record when Mullins scores a goal.
The game remained at a 1-0 score until the 75th minute when Mullins netted his second goal of the game. Even with a 2-0 advantage, the Cavaliers didn’t throw in the towel. Just 1:22 later, Virginia midfielder Todd Wharton scored on a penalty kick to cut the Terp lead in half.
“I just looked all the guys in the eye and said, ‘Boys, we just need to relax here, Mullins said. “We need to remain focused on what we’re doing.’ I thought we were a little unfortunate on the slipup to get the PK, but I thought defensively we were very good. I told the boys to not let it flush them too much and to do what we’d been doing all game.”
The Cavaliers turned up the offensive pressure late in the game and really made life difficult for Maryland. Virginia outshot the Terps 8-6 in the second half and forced Steffen to make three huge saves.
“We’ve seen it from Zack throughout the year,” Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski. “There’s very few goaltenders in the country that can do the things he can do. He still has a long way to go, but he is a special person, a special goalkeeper. He’s extremely coachable, he’s mentally tough and he keeps getting better. When you look at our team, when you have Steffen in goal and Mullins up top and a bunch if hard workers in between, you’ve got a chance every game. Today both of them came through.”
In the final two minutes, Steffen made a pair of phenomenal saves. Off a deflection off a Maryland defender, Virginia ripped a scorching shot that a diving Steffen was able to save and knock away from the net. Virginia lined up for a corner kick as time was expiring, but didn’t have a chance to get off a decent shot at the net.
“I read the guy who crossed it, I got a quick jump to get over,” Steffen said. “I wasn’t sure if the shooter was going to open up his hips, go far post, so I stood my ground. He ended up closing his hips, so I dove and made the save.