Oct. 25, 2012
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Each week during the 2012-13 season a Maryland student-athlete, who has shown excellence on and off the playing field, will be selected as the Solomon Eye Associates Terp of the Week. This week's Solomon Eye Associates Terp of the Week is Keith Cardona from the men's soccer team. Cardona posted a dramatic penalty kick save to help lead No. 1 Maryland to an overtime victory against No. 2 North Carolina last Friday.
By Anna Labonte | Maryland Media Relations Student Assistant
In the 89th minute of a tied 0-0 game against then-No. 2 North Carolina, the second-largest crowd ever at Ludwig Field went silent. The Tar Heels were awarded a penalty kick and the fate of No. 1 Maryland's undefeated record rested on one person: goalkeeper Keith Cardona.
North Carolina forward Rob Lovejoy, the reigning national player of the week, lined up for the kick and struck the ball solidly. But Cardona was there. And when Tar Heel midfielder Verneri Valimaa picked up the rebound and sent it toward the net, Cardona was there, too.
"My only thought was I gotta save it,'" said Cardona. "There's only one thing to do, and that's try your best. You try to put all the pieces together, try to read what he does and try to guess right. The fact that I did was awesome."
The Terps went on to win in overtime, posting their 12th straight victory, and Cardona gave them the fighting chance.
But Cardona is used to fighting. The sophomore fought for playing time last season against then-starter and current director of operations Will Swaim.
"Will taught me to be better every day and to maintain the same line of confidence," said Cardona. "In our position, you can't have really good days and really bad days. All your games have to be really similar."
"Keith has matured incredibly in the last year and he's really coming into his own as both a goalkeeper and a student," Swaim said. "He's a great teammate to everybody."
After Swaim graduated, Cardona was the assumed starter this season. Over spring and summer training, though, Jordan Tatum fought Cardona for the position. The catch: Tatum is one of Cardona's best friends.
"Everything is positive," said Cardona of their odd relationship. "We push each other every day. Every time we step on the field we try to make each other better."
The friendly rivalry ended with Cardona being named starter before the season began.
"It meant the world to me," he said. "I thanked my coaches and the captains over the summer. We all worked really hard together. I started playing with confidence in the preseason and we just kept the ball rolling."
Cardona has allowed just eight goals in 11 games this season and boasts a 10-0-1 record. His wide support system keeps him fighting for his position and for the team.
"Being with the team, playing out here with the Crew," he said, "and playing in front of my parents and playing with [coach Sasho Cirovski] and the coaches here. We have the best coaching staff in America. They try to make us better, and I've bettered myself working with them."