Maryland Men’s Soccer Wins National Title in 1968

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Maryland Men’s Soccer Wins National Title in 1968 (University AlbUM)
Maryland Men’s Soccer Wins National Title in 1968 (University AlbUM)

Maryland Men’s Soccer Wins National Title in 1968

By Samantha Medney

After two minutes passed in the second overtime, Rocco Morelli took the ball, made a move around the defender, and booted it into the goal. It was his fourth tally of the match against San Jose State and the one that brought the Maryland Terrapins into their first NCAA championship game.

The 1968 Maryland booters – the Terrapin soccer team – became co-national champions with the Michigan State Spartans after a difficult journey and undefeated season (14-0-1). They were the only major college team to go undefeated, and their only tie came in the finals against the Spartans.

Maryland was led by head coach Doyle Royal and two assistant coaches Ron Hoch and Ray Buckley. The Terps Co-captains for the 1968 season were Giancarlo Brandoni and Alvaro Bittencourt.

Maryland’s biggest soccer rivals at the time were the Navy Midshipmen. The Terps had not won against the Middies since 1962, so they were dedicated to training hard.

Hoch conditioned the team by assigning extra wind sprints. The team also competed in practices as if they were games, battling to be ready for their October 24th match up.

In front of a 1,000 fans, the Terps beat the Middies 2-1 with a game-winning goal by Frank Schoon. Celebrating with his teammates, Schoon said, “That has to be the worst game I’ve ever played. I’m sure glad I put that shot in.”

Regardless of the way they accomplished it, the Terps had a winning trend, especially in the ACC.

From 1953 until 1968, Maryland never lost an ACC game under Royal.

The Booters solidified this ACC dominance — and a bid to the NCAA tournament — in 1968 when they beat Duke and North Carolina back-to-back at home. Playing the Blue Devils was a warm up for the Tar Heels, as the Terps beat the Blue Devils 4-0.

Duke goalkeeper David Lewis was impressed by Maryland’s performance.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had so many shots come at me so hard,” Lewis said. “The Maryland players kept the pressure on all time – the ball was always in our territory. Maryland is by far the toughest team I’ve ever played against.” (1968 Diamondback)

The Terps earned their title as the number one team in the South following their 3-1 victory over North Carolina, while also giving Royal his best record. His 1957 team went undefeated as well, but they only had 10 games in their schedule.

Maryland continued to lead the ACC and displayed this when they won the ACC Championship three out of their last four years in the conference.

“Each ACC title is special in its own way but this year’s championship certainly will hold a special place in my heart,” said Sasho Cirovski, the Maryland men’s soccer coach since 1993. “To beat Virginia in the championship game in front of a  raucous Maryland crowd and bring home the ACC trophy one last time to College Park is something I, along with our players and staff, will treasure forever.”

Cirovski will continue t0 coach the Terps in 2014 as Maryland joins the Big Ten.

The Big Ten move was making B1G headlines, just as the 1968 Maryland men’s soccer beat reporter wrote about for the team and their games for the Diamondback. Stan Squillace, the reporter, also wrote about what happened off the pitch. This was especially notable when Squillace reported on Morelli’s lack of love after the Terps’ 10-1 win over George Washington.

“I’ve been down here a month from New York and haven’t been out on a date,” Morelli said. “The girls don’t know what a great guy I am.”

This was a little gem from the Italian native. (Booters top GW, October 14, 1968)

When the team went into the NCAA tournament, the Diamondback’s focus returned to the action on the pitch

As the 1968 number one team in the South, Maryland had a first round bye. Their first game would be home against the St. Louis Billikens, the other co-champions of the 1967 season along with Michigan State. While they were playing at home, they were not playing on their normal soccer pitch.

Their usual location for play was muddy, so they used Byrd stadium. This was the first time soccer was played in the football stadium.

The move to Byrd brought record-breaking numbers for the Terps, as 8,500 people watched Maryland top the St. Louis 3-1, November 22. The Billikens were undefeated leading up to this game.

The 2013 season brought record breaking numbers as well, as 8,397 fans came out to cheer on the Maryland as they defeated Duke 3-1, September 6. This night also brought the breaking of two rows of bleachers underneath the Crew’s feet, denoting that the night the Maryland Crew broke multiple things at Ludwig Field.

The Crew was created September 5, 2003 by Mike “Stro” Mastrantuono and friends before their home-opener against UCLA. The Crew attends all Maryland men’s soccer games, including the 2012 and 2013 College Cups in Alabama and Pennsylvania, respectively.

Former Terp Taylor Kemp expressed his gratitude for the Crew’s dedication and passion for the team before Maryland played UCLA in 2012. “They’re unbelievable,” Kemp said. “They’re the best fans in the country, and they help us in every way during the games. They give us energy. They give us spirit. They’re unbelievable, and we’re so lucky to have them.”

Following the Booters’ victory over the Billikens, the Terps played the Hartwick Warriors. With their 2-1 win over the Warriors, the Terps were off to Atlanta, G.A.

Just like it is played today in the College Cup, the two semifinal games are played on a neutral site. The 1968 tournament was held in Atlanta, GA, and was the first time no consolation game would be played for third place. This was due to previous injuries created by teams being upset and not playing proper soccer. They found it more beneficial to have the two semifinals and one championship game.

When Morelli scored his fourth goal of the game against San Jose State, he prevented the game from being awarded to his opponents, but not for the reason current soccer fans would assume. In 1968, when a tied game needs to given a victor, and overtimes have already been played, the team with the most corner kicks wins.

Corner kicks. It does not go into penalty kicks, or continue with another overtime, which does not have any true representation of a teams’ playing ability.

In the 1968 NCAA semifinals, the California team was leading the Maryland one 10 corner kicks to one, so they would have won without Morelli’s goal.

Following this exciting win for the Terrapins, they were off to the finals to meet the Spartans. This game was more anti-climactic as the two teams battled into overtime tied at 2-2, and the game finished with that same result. Unlike current rules, there were no penalty kick shoot outs to determine the victor. They also did not use the corner kick strategy for the finals, so Maryland and Michigan State became co-champions.

While this was Maryland’s first NCAA championship trophy, this was not their first national title. In 1947, just one year after their varsity soccer program was created, the Terps were ranked number one on the national stage, but as the NCAA tournament was created in 1959, they did not have the opportunity to compete for the NCAA Championship. It is believed they would have earned the NCAA Championship title if it had existed. (Maryland men’s soccer media guide, 1969)

Maryland would go on to win two more NCAA championships under Cirovski. He won his first NCAA title in 2005 and again three years later in 2008.

When asked about both of these championships, Cirovski said, “It’s like comparing my children. They are both wonderful and magical in their own ways. We have established a program that battles for national championships each and every season and that is the thing I am most proud of.”

U.S. Men’s National Team members Omar Gonzalez and Graham Zusi were both on the 2008 National Championship team. Zusi already had a championship ring as he was also on the 2005 roster.

“It means the world to me to see players move on from the program and have success on the national level. It’s a great source of pride. I’m excited to follow the World Cup this summer with the potential of four Terps making the US roster.”

The 1968 team produced two first team All-Americans: Brandoni at center halfback and Mario Jelencovich in the net. In addition to being an All-American, Jelencovich won the tournament’s most outstanding defensive player.

The Terps had honors beyond these two players, as Morelli was on the second team All-American. Six Terps made the All-ACC first team: Bittencourt, Brandoni, Jelencovich, Morelli, Larry Ruhs, and Melih Sensoy.

Morelli lead the team with 15 goals. Behind him Jerry Chareczko and Ruhs, the second and third top scorers, respectively. Ruhs led the team in assists.

With the B1G move, the Terps look to add a fourth national title to their collection.


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