The Maryland men's soccer team entered Thursday's NCAA tournament first round game against Albany convinced this time would be different.
In the 10 days between Maryland's Big Ten tournament quarterfinal loss and its NCAA tournament opener, the Terps said they were training as well as they had all season.
The level of play gave them faith their attack — which had scored just two goals in the previous five games — would return to rescue their season.
Instead, the same toothless team that lost five in a row came to Ludwig Field and suffered the same fate. Maryland couldn't crack Albany's defense, playing the Great Danes to a scoreless draw before losing 5-4 in an eight-round penalty shootout that ended the Terps' season.
"I don't have an explanation for it," coach Sasho Cirovski said. "We had a great, great last eight days of training. It was as sharp as I'd seen our team in a few years. Scoring, finishing. I just really expected us to find several goals today."
Similar to most games during their recent losing streak, the Terps had plenty of chances against Albany. Forward Gordon Wild — scoreless since Sept. 12 — had one of his best shots of the last two months in the first minute, requiring a save from Great Danes goalkeeper Danny Vitiello.
As the game continued and the scoreline remained 0-0, midfielder Eryk Williamson said the frustration mounted.
"The last eight days, I thought it was going to come and we were going to be flying," Williamson said. "First minute, we have a chance and you just kind of see it from there. You think it's coming, and it's just not going in the net, and that was the biggest frustration for us."
Despite dominating possession, the Terps challenged Vitiello only a few times. He dove to parry midfielder Jake Rozhansky's 34th-minute distance effort, but Maryland's best chances were either off-target or blundered into not being a shot at all.
Wild swung and missed at a 22nd-minute cross from defender George Campbell directly in front of the net.
Defender Donovan Pines sent a header high in the 51st minute. After it sailed over the goal, he jumped and mimed another header in front of the net, nearly hitting his head on the crossbar.
"There was just too many times in the final third where we ran out of ideas," Cirovski said. "It's hard to understand why, because that's not what we've been practicing."
Albany, meanwhile, sat back and absorbed pressure, content to force penalty kicks. Maryland faced that gameplan during its nonconference slate as foes tried to upset the Terps.
Earlier in the season, though, the Terps' attack was still potent enough to carry them to a 10-0-3 record. By Thursday, the team was a shell of its former self, and the Great Danes took advantage en route to the NCAA tournament second round.
"I couldn't have ever predicted us not scoring goals," Cirovski said. "When the bright lights come on, you have to put the ball in the back of the net. In that perspective, we failed."