Maryland head men’s soccer coach Sasho Cirovski was recently selected as part of the Maryland Athletics 2021 Hall of Fame class. Cirovski received the honor along with eight others:
-Rick Badanjek (football)
-Steve Blake (men’s basketball)
-Maurice Edu (men’s soccer)
-Paula Infante (field hockey)
-D’Qwell Jackson (football)
-Crystal Langhorne (women’s basketball)
-Keli Smith-Puzo (field hockey)
-Erin Taylor Blount (women’s soccer)
Maryland Athletics plans to hold the induction ceremony Nov. 19.
Cirovski, a three-time national champion, is thrilled to be recognized as part of such an incredible class.
“I’m deeply honored and humbled by the selection. … I still think I have a few more good years left,” Cirovski said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 5. “This is a place I love, this is a place that’s my home, and I feel honored to be the coach here.”
The Ontario native has always held a passion for soccer and even planned on playing professional soccer in the North American Soccer League at a young age. However, the league collapsed, and those plans quickly changed.
Wanting to stay involved with the game, Cirovski gravitated toward coaching.
He served as the head coach of the University of Hartford from 1991-1992, helping the team reach the NCAA Tournament both seasons. Following the end of the 1992 season, Cirovski applied for the head coach position at the University of Maryland, a school that wanted to turn around its men’s soccer program.
Cirovski was soon named head coach. His long journey with the Terrapins began in 1993.
“I realized at that point this is a place that we can make elite, and that was my goal,” Cirovski explained. “I told everybody — from the president to the [athletic director] to the players here — that the expectation is that we’re going to be a perennial elite, top-10 team, and we’re going to compete for national titles every year.”
The journey has not been an easy one, as Cirovski had to overcome some obstacles along the way. He took over a Terps team that finished the 1992 season 5-12. He finished his first season 3-14, trending in the opposite direction that he hoped for.
Throughout his initial season, Cirovski tried to impress upon players what a commitment to the program meant. His players had to play games at a home field that was not suitable given the competition the Terrapins were facing.
“I’m thinking, what the heck did I get myself into? But I love that challenge, and that sort of fit me perfectly because it was just a grind that I was willing to take on,” Cirovski said.
But Cirovski finished the 1994 season 14-6-1, leading the Terrapins to a spot in the Sweet 16 in only his second season. Although the Terps fell to Virginia, Cirovski believes his team proved to themselves and others what it was capable of.
“I think we sent a signal that Maryland is here, and now we just needed to stay there and keep building,” Cirovski said.
And so they did.
As his career progressed, Cirovski helped the Terps capture three national championships (2005, 2008 and 2018). He has appeared in 26 NCAA postseason games with Maryland. He’s also won two ACC regular-season titles, six ACC tournament titles, two Big Ten regular-season titles and two Big Ten tournament titles. He has appeared in the College Cup nine times.
However, Cirovski faced some challenges recently in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. After the pandemic forced a cancellation of the Terps’ season last fall, the team played an abbreviated season in the spring with no non-conference or exhibition games. During the shortened, intense season, Cirovski’s team endured plenty of injuries, even having to cancel a game at one point due to a lack of healthy players.
“That was really disappointing, but we survived it. We started out 0-3. We finished in the NCAA Tournament. … Our first game was on a Friday night, and we’re going, ‘Wait a second, this just does not feel right, like nobody’s here,'” Cirovski explained. “So, it took us a little while to adjust. … For us it was a little harder because of our expectations.”
Cirovski and the Terps are eagerly awaiting returning to Ludwig Field this fall. In the meantime, Cirovski has enjoyed watching his former players enjoy success beyond their time at Maryland, such as Donovan Pines and Eryk Williamson winning the Gold Cup with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
“I feel like a proud father. I’m a father of three daughters, and these are my boys. When they come to Maryland, they come here with dreams. They want to get a great college education, they want to get a great soccer education and they want to have a great soccer career,” Cirovski said. “And to see these kids reach the ultimate [goal] of wearing the U.S. National Team jersey and playing in competitions like the Gold Cup or the World Cup — it’s incredible.”
For more from Cirovski, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics