COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Less than 24 hours producing the largest comeback win under Head Coach Mike Brizendine, the Virginia Tech men's soccer team showed no signs of tired legs as they went step for step with top-seeded Maryland before falling 2-1 at Ludwig Field in the ACC quarterfinals.
"I'm very pleased with the way we played tonight," Brizendine said "Maryland is a great team, one that I think can win a national championship, and we gave them all that they could handle. Even when we went a man down, I thought we had chances. We took some risks and had some opportunities from those."
Maryland (15-1-2) struck first, getting on the scoreboard in the 11th minute . Mikias Eticha was taken down in the box leading to a penalty kick for the Terrapins. John Stertzer stepped up and converted for the home side, recording his seventh goal of the season.
The Hokies (7-10-3) didn't allow the early deficit to rattle them, as David Clemens came back with opportunities just minutes later. The junior tried to test Maryland keeper Keith Cardona from distance in the 13th minute. Less than a minute later, Ben Strong sent a pass into the box that was deflected to a streaking Clemens who ripped a shot just over the crossbar.
Mullins nearly gave the Terps a 2-0 lead in the 25th minute as a cross was sent into him. The junior sitting just outside the six yard box tried to flick the ball into the goal with his head, but Tech keeper Kyle Renfro was in prime position to make the stop. Four minutes later, Schillo Tshuma hit a low shot on frame, but Renfro was there again, going down to make the stop.
With just minutes remaining before the halftime whistle, Strong sent dangerous cross into the box, but Cardona was able to snatch it out of the air, sending the Terps to the locker room with a 1-0 lead while also holding a 5-1 advantage in shots on goal.
"We told the guys at halftime that we wanted to put a game plan in place that frustrated them and we did that," Brizendine said. "They got a goal on PK, but we did a good job in frustrating them and doing what we wanted. "
Just over minute into the second half, Tech leveled game with a penalty kick of its own. A trip just inside the box gave Clemens an opportunity to step up to the spot and level the game. The junior calmly stepped up and sent to the ball to the right side as Cardona dove the opposite direction. It was his third goal of the tournament and 10th of the season.
Maryland through regained the lead quickly as Patrick Mullins gave the Terps the lead in the 52nd minute. Mikey Ambrose sent a cross to the far post that Mullins headed into the ground. The ball bounced into the net just getting past Renfro and a pair of Hokie defenders.
Tech took another hit in the 57th minute as center back Drew Ranahan picked up his second yellow card of the game for a slide tackle just outside of the box.
Despite going down a man, Tech continued to pick its spots and push the ball at the Maryland defense with Strong and Kai Marshall creating great opportunities. Strong was a threat throughout the game with his ability to send dangerous balls into the box.
In the 66th minute, Marshall created space for himself in the box before hitting a low shot, but Cardona was there for the save.
Tech had a few close calls with 15 minutes remaining as Mullins had three chances within three minutes, but Renfro stood tall, coming up with a pair of saves before the third was knocked into the side netting. Despite chances for Maryland, the Hokies knew they had to push for the equalizer, leaving them vulnerable on counter attacks.
The 81st minute saw Christiano Francois get a step on his man and put a shot past Renfro, but the ball hit the post and was cleared out of play. Two minutes later, the Terps recorded back-to-back shots, but Renfro was there as he was all night.
With less than two minutes remaining, Marshall got the ball 30 yards out, cut to the left and found space before rocketing a rising shot wide of the left post. It was Tech's final shot of the match
Despite a shot total of 22-6 and 11-4 on target in favor of the home team, the Hokies picked their spots throughout the game, put their opposition under pressure in spurts and frustrated the No. 2 team in the nation. As he's done throughout his time at Tech, Renfro again came up big for the Hokies, tying his career high in saves with nine for the third time this season and fourth in the past two years.
"When we put together a game plan we knew that we would be defending hard, especially when we went a man down," Brizendine added. "Again, between our defending effort and Kyle, I thought we did a good job.
"I'm not displeased with what I saw tonight. I'm very encouraged with not only what I saw tonight, but over the past two games."
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