The next obstacle in this record-matching, program-elevating season for the Coastal Carolina men’s soccer team comes in the form of a Maryland program that has lost only once all season, is ranked No. 2 in the country and has won two NCAA national championships in the last seven years.
But Chanticleers coach Shaun Docking isn’t worried about his team dwelling on any of that.
“These kids, they’re so funny, they make me laugh,” Docking said of his players. “You’ve got these international guys, and they don’t know who Maryland is and who Wake Forest is. There’s no intimidation factor for these guys. They come from great environments in their own country where they’ve played in front of big crowds before, so for us we’re going to Maryland, it’s not that big of a deal.”
It’s a huge deal for the Coastal soccer program, though.
As the No. 13-ranked Chants (20-2-2) take on the Terrapins (18-1-2) on Sunday evening at Ludwig Field in College Park, Md., they’ll be making the program’s second-ever appearance in the third round of the NCAA tournament. The last was back in 2003 when they lost in 3-2 in overtime to UC Santa Clara, and these Chants have a confidence that they can play with anybody – even the vaunted Terps.
“This is the closest we’ve been since 2003 in terms of having a team that can compete with anybody on any given day,” Docking said. “They’re not scared of anybody. They’re not intimidated by anybody.”
Nor should they be at this point.
After reaching the second round of the tournament last year before falling 3-2 in a tight game with eventual national champion North Carolina, Coastal has come back even stronger this year while matching the program and Big South Conference record for wins set by that 2003 team. The Chants have won 17 of their last 18 games and rallied for a come-from-behind 2-1 overtime win at Wake Forest last weekend in the second round. Wake Forest, for what it’s worth, just happens to be the only team that defeated Maryland this season.
“They’re truly feeling like they’re continuing to get better even at this stage of the season. They don’t want it to be over,” Docking said of his team. “[Down 1-0 at halftime at Wake Forest] we talked about, are we ready for the season to be over? This could potentially be your last 45 minutes of soccer, and they came together at halftime and just decided they did not want their season to be over. And you could see that in the second half and going into overtime.”
So now it’s on to the Sweet 16 and a Maryland team that has established itself as one of college soccer’s perennial powers. Along the way, they have built a strong following and Docking fully expects a loud, imposing crowd in College Park.
“They’ve been on top for a long time,” junior midfielder Pedro Ribeiro said. “We know that we’re going to go into a really good environment to play soccer, good stadium, good crowd, so we’ve got to be able to deal with that as well.”
And also deal with the Terps’ elite offensive attack.
Maryland ranks third in the country in scoring at 2.48 goals per game – behind only New Mexico and Coastal (2.58) – and is led by ACC Offensive Player of the Year Patrick Mullins, who has 14 goals and eight assists.
Sophomore defender Uchenna Uzo has developed a reputation for containing and often shutting down the opposing team’s top forward, and he’s confident he can do the same Sunday against Mullins.
“From the training and everything the coaches taught me, if I play my best, I can shut down any forward I come across,” Uzo said.
Yes, the Chants are plenty confident despite their underdog status, and they are fully aware of what’s at stake – a chance to set a new standard for Coastal soccer and keep this historic season of theirs going.
As Docking put it, “We look at this as an opportunity to go in and beat the best team in the country, in our opinion.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.