The University of Maryland is still firmly established as the premier men's soccer program among the state's four NCAA Division I schools. Maryland was the nation's top-ranked team for most of the 2016 campaign before its season ended abruptly with a second-round NCAA Tournament defeat.
The Loyola Greyhounds went from the Patriot League basement to second place in one season and return most of their offensive talent. Navy and UMBC are seeking better fortunes after difficult 2016 campaigns.
Here's a glance at the state's Division I men's soccer teams:
The Greyhounds are on a sharp upward trajectory. After going 2-13-2 overall and 0-8-1 in the Patriot League in 2015, Loyola was a vastly improved team last fall. The 2016 Greyhounds put together an 8-6-3 mark and made their first appearance in the Patriot League tournament after finishing second with a 6-1-2 conference record.
The Greyhounds, who open the 2017 season at La Salle (Aug. 25) and host St. John's (Aug. 28), must find suitable replacements for first-team All-Patriot League goalkeeper Matt Sanchez and second-team defender Ryan Tuck. But the Greyhounds' offense makes Loyola an NCAA Tournament contender. Sophomore forward Brian Saramago, the Patriot League's Rookie of the Year last season, led the squad in scoring with nine goals and three assists. The midfield returns a pair of All-Patriot League second-team players in sophomore Barry Sharifi (four goals, five assists) and junior Gabriel Carlsson (three, three).
During Sasho Cirovsky's 24 previous seasons as Maryland's head coach, the Terps have progressed from an average program to an annual contender for the NCAA championship. That record of excellence should continue this year, as the Terps welcome back a host of veterans from the 2016 team that spent most of the season at the top of the national polls.
Maryland's only loss last season came in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, when the Terps (18-1-2) were stunned by visiting Providence, 5-4. But Maryland, which went 7-0-1 in Big Ten play and won its fifth straight conference title dating back to their Atlantic Coast Conference days, have enough firepower to contend for its first NCAA crown since 2008.
Maryland, which has earned 16 consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, welcomes back junior forward Gordon Wild, a MAC Hermann Trophy finalist, first-team NSCAA All-American and the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year who tallied 17 goals and five assists. The junior trio of D.J. Reeves (three goals, six assists), second-team All-Big Ten choice Eryk Williamson (three, five) and Sebastian Elney (three, four) also help make the Terps a potent offensive team. Junior Amar Sejdic, a first-team All-Big Ten selection who contributed nine goals and a team-high nine assists, will team with senior Jake Rozhansky (three, eight) in the Terps' midfield.
The defense must fill several holes left by the graduations of Chris Odoi-Atsem and first-team NSCAA All-American Alex Crognale, who are now playing in the Major Soccer League, and goalkeeper Cody Niedermeier (1.08 goals-allowed average). The Terps, who are ranked sixth in the United Soccer Coaches (formerly NSCAA) preseason poll, will begin their season Aug. 25 at Santa Clara before the Aug. 28 home opener against Hofstra.
The Midshipmen went 5-9-4 overall and 1-6-2 in the Patriot League during head coach Tim O'Donohue's first season. Navy boasted a strong defensive unit but had trouble scoring.
The Midshipmen scored 16 goals in 18 games last season. Navy will have to replace the graduated Sam Bascom (three goals, two assists), and will turn to senior forward Daniel Zaremba (three, three) for its offensive leadership. Navy also returns senior midfielder Brock Dudley, a second-team All-Patriot League choice who played every minute of the 2016 season. Senior goalkeeper Mac Burke, who posted four shutouts and allowed 1.05 goals per game, and sophomore Andrew Hopkins (two goals, one assist) will anchor the defensive unit for Navy, which opens Aug. 25 at Manhattan before hosting NJIT Aug. 28.
The Retrievers have made four NCAA Tournament appearances during the past seven seasons, including an unexpected run to the 2014 College Cup semifinals. But the 2016 season wasn't a memorable one, as UMBC fell to 5-9-3 overall and 0-7 in America East.
After scoring 16 goals in 17 games and being shut out eight times, the Retrievers will look to boost their offensive production. Head coach Pete Caringi Jr., whose team opens against visiting Bryant Aug. 25, welcomes back sophomore forward Tre Pulliam (four goals, one assist) and senior midfielder Sammy Kahsai (three goals). Versatile midfielder/defender Gregg Hauck (one goal, three assists) also returns, but UMBC will have to replace Christian Morales (three goals) and goalkeeper Billy Heavner, a three-year starter.
Photo Credit: Larry French/Loyola Athletics