The Maryland women's soccer team faced an important test at Ludwig Field Thursday night when a depleted NC State Wolfpack came to College Park. Coming off back to back shutout losses to top five teams and facing one of the few unranked ACC squads, the Terps not only needed to win but I think needed to win convincingly. They did both - taking down the Pack by a 3-0 score.
Two things were apparent from the outset: Maryland was going to push forward and attack the goal while NC State would pack in their defense. The barrage of shots started early with Ashley Spivey making room from about 25 yards but her low grounder didn't have much behind it and State keeper Karly Gustafson made an easy save. The scene repeated a few minutes later this time with the shot coming from just inside the box off Hayley Brock's foot - similar shot identical result.
While the Terps seemed intent on moving the ball out of their defensive third, NC State never challenged those possessions often bringing only one or two players forward. The Wolfpack managed a corner of a two against four possession in the eleventh minute but the Terrapin defense easily cleared the header without testing goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands. Forward Ashley Spivey made one of her several strong runs collecting a pass from Riley Barger with room to maneuver in the box but she pushed her shot well wide of the goal. Though the Terps played dangerous ball after dangerous ball they couldn't break through until the thirty-seventh minute. Spivey sent in a twisting knuckle ball of a shot that appeared headed wide of the goal. State's freshman keeper elected to play the shot and mishandled it setting up a Terrapin corner kick. Megan Gibbons played the corner in and Maryland's two 5'3" freshman attackers maneuvered their way through NC State's 5'10" defenders to combine for the goal as Lauren Berman headed the ball out to Natasha Ntone-Kouo who poked it into the upper left hand corner of the goal. Coach Jonathan Morgan felt the first half goal was important because, "Once we scored, they were able to play much looser. It became more like let's just play. Let's have some fun and that's what they did." The Terps continued putting pressure on the Wolfpack defense with Cory Ryan having two good chances late in the half but she was unable to connect on either and Maryland had to be satisfied with a 1-0 halftime lead.
Satisfied with a lead but not fully satisfied as the Terps started the second half on fire scoring before the half was a minute old. Sarah Fitchner played a ball down the right side to Megan gibbons who took one long dribble to get behind a State defender. Gibbons then presented Brock with a perfect cross that the senior from Massachusetts played off her knee without losing stride and found the back of the net. The game's final goal came in the fifty-second minute when Gustafson tipped excellent look at the goal by Ashley Spivey just over the crossbar. Gibbons played the ensuing corner into the box and saw it headed out by a Wolfpack defender. Sophomore midfielder Aubrey Baker gathered it in and the ball that came off her foot looking like an innocent cross turned instead into a perfect curving shot that left Gustafson and the NC State defense dumfounded.
Despite the comfortable lead, the Terps continued to pound away - finishing the game with a 27-6 advantage in shots half of which were on goal. The lead also let Coach Morgan rest his starters in anticipation of the match at North Carolina on Sunday October 6. The Terps then have a week off before Duke makes its final regular season ACC trip to College Park on October 13th at 1 pm.