Members of Championship Squad Will Celebrate 50th Anniversary at Pregame Ceremony
The 1968 University of Maryland men's soccer team went 14-0-1, playing to a 2-2 draw with Michigan State to be crowned co-champions. Below: Center forward Rocco Morelli, Head Coach Doyle Royal and Athletic Director Jim Kehoe pose with the national championship trophy.
It’s been 50 years since center forward Rocco Morelli scored all four goals in Maryland’s 4–3 semifinal win over San Jose State in 1968, helping lead to the program’s first national championship. He’s seen a few of his Terp teammates now and then and kept in touch via Facebook.
Tonight, he’ll join them once again in front of UMD faithful.
The Maryland men's soccer team will honor the 50th anniversary of that title by welcoming back members of the 1968 squad to tonight’s match against No. 13 Michigan State. The Terps and Spartans were named co-champions in ’68 after playing to a 2–2 draw.
“Time goes fast—I’m 71½,” Morelli said. “When you look back at ’68, boy, it feels good.”
Led then by head coach Doyle Royal, the team featured two All-Americans in center halfback Giancarlo Brandoni and goalkeeper Mario Jelencovich, along with All-ACC selections Morelli, Alvaro Bittencourt, Larry Ruhs and Melih Sensoy.
They swept through the regular season, outscoring their opposition, 45–8. They were the lone undefeated team in college soccer that year, finishing with a 14-0-1 record and capturing their 16th consecutive ACC title. The squad is one of three Maryland teams to finish the entire season unbeaten (1947, 1958).
“We tried to get all together as a family,” Morelli said. “We had different styles of play, but we all played as a unit.”
The Terps drew a bye in the first round of the NCAA tournament before defeating defending national champion St. Louis, 3–1, in front 8,500 fans in College Park. Maryland then dispatched Hartwick to advance to face San Jose State in the national semifinals in Atlanta, where Morelli starred. The final saw Bittencourt and Jerry Chareczko score for UMD, who never trailed in the draw with Michigan State.
Several members of the ’68 squad convened in College Park for a 25th anniversary celebration dinner, but tonight they’ll be recognized in a pregame ceremony at Ludwig Field, complete with personalized championship rings. The match will kick off at 7 p.m. and be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
“When I took over in 1993, it was this group of champions that gave me great hope that winning national championships at Maryland was possible,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “I can't wait to see them and have our great fan base give them a rousing standing ovation on Friday.”
Annie Dankelson contributed to this story.
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