When Chase Gasper limped off the field with an injured left groin on Oct. 13 at Wisconsin, there was no timeline for his return.
A month later, the Maryland men's soccer defender is finally healthy, and his return coincides with in the Terps' first-round NCAA tournament game against Albany on Thursday. Since leaving the squad, Gasper has watched from the Ludwig Field sidelines as his teammates lost five consecutive games.
Now, having earned a nine-day break thanks to a quarterfinal loss in the Big Ten tournament, Gasper will return to a team that coach Sasho Cirovski said is better rested than it has been all season. That gives the Terps hope they can capitalize on their last chance to turn their season around.
"There's been an opportunity to really reset and get stronger," Cirovski said. "For the last five years we've taken a team into both the ACC and the Big Ten tournament weekends and we've come out injured [and] banged up."
Along with Gasper's injury, the Terps backline has missed defenders Donovan Pines and George Campbell for parts of their five-game skid, the longest losing streak since 1993, Cirovski's first year at Maryland.
Those absences — and subpar play from the defense as a result — forced Cirovski to start four different backlines in the past five games. The patchwork groups conceded three late game-winning goals.
So, the Terps are anxious for the return of their original group of starting defenders, which is undefeated this year and had eight clean sheets in the team's first 13 games.
When he played for UCLA, left groin injuries cost Gasper the end of his sophomore year and nearly all of 2016, allowing him to transfer to Maryland as a junior after qualifying for a medical redshirt.
As losses piled up in his absence, the Terps praised Gasper's importance to the team. Gasper was named a captain midway through this season.
Thursday, Maryland will find out whether Gasper's return to the backline will fix a team that's also admitted to not competing hard enough at times during its losing streak and scored just twice over a five-game span.
"I'm looking forward to having them all back in their best position and really give us of a sense of, both in the buildup but also some strength defensively," Cirovski said. "We'll get a lot more good play out of the whole team."