One of the greatest seasons ever for the Coastal Carolina men’s soccer program came to an end Sunday night.
Having already matched the program record for wins while reaching the third round of the NCAA tournament for just the second time, the No. 13-ranked Chanticleers met a challenge they couldn’t overcome -- not on this day, at least.
No. 2 Maryland weathered an early challenge from Coastal before pulling away in the second half for a 5-1 win before an announced crowd of 1,847 at Ludwig Field in College Park, Md.
It wasn’t the ending the Chants (20-3-2) hoped for after winning 17 of their previous 18 games, but having gone as far as any Coastal team ever had -- matching the feat of the 2003 squad -- it was nonetheless a season of great accomplishment.
“It was good that we got to the final 16. There’s a lot of great programs throughout the country that didn’t get this far,” CCU head coach Shaun Docking said afterward by phone. “Akron got knocked out today. Notre Dame got knocked out -- they were the No. 1 seed. There were some very, very good teams that got knocked out, so for us to make it to the final 16 for the second time in 10 years is a great achievement for our program and our university.
“I think for us to be a Final Four team, I think we’ve got still a lot of work to do, and that’s what we’re going to work on for next year.”
Maryland (19-1-2) struck first Sunday as sophomore midfielder Mikias Eticha scored in the 13th minute to give the Terrapins an early lead, but the Chants would answer.
Senior Ashton Bennett tied the game in the 21st minute on his team-leading 16th goal of the season to set the tone for what would be a back-and-forth, well contested game for much of the evening.
Unfortunately for the Chants, though, it didn’t stay tied for long.
Junior forward Patrick Mullins, the 2012 ACC Offensive Player of the Year, scored his 15th goal of the season a little more than a minute later to give the Terps a 2-1 advantage they would take into halftime.
The Chants had their chances to rally, tallying eight of their 11 shots and seven corner kick opportunities after halftime. They came close to knotting the score again on another chance by Bennett in the opening minutes of the second half as he got the ball near the top of the box, juked a defender and fired a strong shot toward the net, but Maryland sophomore goalkeeper Keith Cardona was able to just tip the ball over the crossbar.
“We had some great opportunities,” Docking said. “We had four or five very, very good opportunities that on any other given night would have gone in. Credit to Maryland. I think if those goals had gone in it could have been a different kind of game.”
Instead, Maryland started pulling away -- one goal at a time.
Junior forward Sunny Jane scored in the 60th and 64th minutes to make it 4-1 and sophomore midfielder Jereme Raley added a goal in the 86th minute for the Terps. After going down two goals, the Chants had put more numbers forward to try to spark some scoring and paid for it on the defensive end allowing a competitive game to swell into a lopsided final result.
Still, Docking raved about the play of Bennett, who is hoping to be a first-round selection in the upcoming Major League Soccer draft.
“He played great tonight. I think he showed tonight that he is one of the best forwards in the country,” Docking said.
Maryland, one of the country’s preeminent college soccer programs and winners of the 2005 and 2008 national championships, now moves on to the Elite Eight and a matchup with either Northwestern or Louisville.
While Coastal closes the book on another memorable campaign, having raised the bar yet again for the program after a second-round NCAA tournament exit last season. There’s still room to grow, though, Docking said.
“We played an excellent Maryland team. I would be surprised if they don’t win the national championship this year,” he said. “They were very, very good. Very sharp finishing chances. They absorbed our pressure very, very well and deserved to win tonight. They beat us in all phases of the game tonight. They’re finishing was so much sharper than ours. I thought their defending was better. And we’ve got a lot to learn from this experience. I think we’re still a ways from being a Final Four-level program right now. I think we can take a lot away from this.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.