The men's soccer team has met the enemy, and it is Maryland.
The 11th-ranked Terrapins (15-4-1, 5-2-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) staged a 4-2 upset win over sixth-ranked and top-seeded Duke (15-5, 4-3) in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament Friday at the Disney Soccer Complex in Orlando, Fla.
"Since Maryland had to play an extra game, we thought they'd be tired, and we thought we'd be more prepared," sophomore forward Troy Garner said. "We're disappointed with the way we played, especially in the first half."
The Terps struck early, collecting all of their goals in the first half. Mike McIlwain kicked off the action just over 10 minutes into the game, sending a floater off a feed from Leo Cullen past a charging Atli Knutsson. At 29:40, Keith Beach shot an 18-yard bomb, also assisted by Cullen, into the lower left corner. Five minutes later, Pierre Venditti served a cross from the left side of the field, which Jason Cropley knocked into the net. Then Beach struck again at 36:55, nailing a 13-yard shot into the lower right corner.
The Blue Devils could only answer with one goal in the first stanza, as senior forward Andy Kwon drove the ball home off an assist from junior midfielder Josh Henderson at 20:47.
The second half was a different story. After the ejection of Maryland's Randy Merkel following his fifth yellow card on the season, the Terrapins seemed to loosen their pressure, playing a more relaxed, less physical game.
"They laid back the whole second half," Garner said. "The second half wasn't really a game; it was an illusion."
Duke held the Terps scoreless in the second half, but its defensive effort was not enough to turn the tide. The Blue Devil offense mustered just one goal in the half, a Jay Heaps header from Kwon with just over four minutes remaining in the game.
For the two Duke shots that found the back of the net, there were 23 that didn't. The Blue Devils outshot Maryland 25-7, with six of the Terrapins' shots in the first half, and 17 of the Blue Devils' after intermission. But close is never good enough, and many of Duke's shots were just that. One of senior midfielder Steve Maynard's shots ricocheted off the goalpost. Heaps took seven shots that didn't find the back of the net, while Maynard, Garner and freshman midfielder Stephen Pate missed four apiece. While the Blue Devils failed to finish their chances, the Terps made the most of every opportunity they had.
"We had about a billion chances in the second half," Garner said. "If we'd finished on them early on in the second half, we probably could have come back, but our shots just weren't going in.... I don't think we'll ever have that many missed chances again. But we also got ourselves into a hole in the first half that we couldn't get out of."
This wasn't the first time the Terps had played the role of spoiler. They handed Duke its first loss in the ACC earlier this season. Last year they defeated No. 1 Virginia for the conference championship, although in Sunday's rematch of the '96 title game, the Cavaliers regained the ACC title in a 2-0 decision.
While the Blue Devils are highly likely to receive an NCAA Tournament bid, this weekend's outcome could hurt its chances of getting one of the top seeds and playing its first round match at home.
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
"I don't think we're going to be seeded as high now," Garner said. "But regardless, we're going to have to win the same number of games, and we're going to have to play some tough teams.... These games, we basically can't lose."