One could reasonably think that the Maryland women's soccer team started Thursday night's game against the Pittsburgh Panthers a bit on edge. The Terps sat in ninth place in the ACC with fifteen points. In order to make the ACC Tournament, Maryland needed some combination of a win over Pitt and either a Boston College loss or tie with Syracuse or they needed NC State to upset Wake Forest. Thursday afternoon BC edged the Orange 2-1 in double overtime leaving the Terrapins only one open door. The Terps did their part downing the Panthers 3-1 and, with apologies to Ben Broman, State did theirs knocking off Wake Forest 2-1 and securing an eighth place finish for Maryland.
Perhaps it was the combination of needing the win coupled with the emotions of senior night that led to Maryland's tentative start against the only team in the ACC with a conference win but for about three and a half minutes, Pitt looked to be the more aggressive and confident squad. In addition to starting the five seniors, an injury to Ashley Spivey forced Terrapin coach Jonathan Morgan to insert Alex Doody into the starting lineup. However, in the fifth minute, Hayley Brock played a through ball for Doody that had just a bit too much pace but seemed to settle the Terps into a better rhythm and they controlled the remaining forty minutes of the half. Unfortunately for Maryland fans, despite dominating the run of play, the Terps had little to show for it beyond a 10-0 edge in shots with three on goal and three corner kicks to none for Pitt. So one might say that the Panthers won the battle of the scoreboard managing a 0-0 halftime tie despite being physically and statistically out played.
The Terps' best chances came first in the twentieth minute when Alex Reed took a cross from Aubrey Baker and fed the ball ahead to Brock whose contested shot went just high. Just under three minutes later, Doody took a through ball into the box but Pittsburgh goalkeeper Taylor Francis came off her line to make a sliding tackle that took out the ball and Doody. The third best chance came in the thirty-first minute when Brock managed to make a run deep into the offensive third and was knocked down from behind on a foul that looked to have taken place a yard or two inside the eighteen but in the eyes of the referee occurred just outside the box. Coming off an injury, little used freshman midfielder Maren Knudsen who was inserted at forward after receiving a text from her coach in the afternoon and who gave the Terps some very solid minutes took the free kick but couldn't get it by the defensive wall. Of the half, Morgan said, "It was pretty frustrating. We were playing pretty well. We were defending really well and we just weren't hungry. We didn't have a great mentality when we were in the box. We were hitting shots but they were passive shots."
Of his halftime adjustments, Morgan said, "When we were talking to the forwards about having a mentality and being confident in the box that kid (Alex Doody) was just nodding the whole time. It was great to see her response because she really wanted to go to goal." And going to goal paid off for the Massachusetts junior as she went forward after a steal by Kristen Schmidbauer and took the senior's pass at the left corner of the box took a dribble or two and finished into the upper right from twelve yards out in the fifty-first minute to give the Terps a 1-0 lead. Doody had a chance to add to the Terrapin lead in the fifty-third minute in a one on one with Francis but the keeper made a sliding save and was then rescued by her defense that managed to knock away Doody's attempt on the rebound just before the ball crossed the goal. Brock, who had had several chances to score earlier finally broke through in the sixty-fifth minute when she made a steal near the top of the box and created enough space between two Pitt defenders to drive a rocket past Francis and give the Terps some breathing space at 2-0.
However, Maryland couldn't quite stand prosperity as a desperate Pittsburgh team went on the attack. The Panthers scored on an own goal in the seventy-fourth minute when a cross/shot by Ella Vanhanen glance off a Terrapin defender's back and past a surprised Rachelle Beanlands. With just over sixteen minutes to play, a one goal margin is enough to keep a team and its fans on edge. In the eighty-eighth minute, the connection of Brock and Doody combined to score Maryland's third goal and wrap up the win. The goal cam when Brock, using her speed, made one of her patented long runs down the right side getting behind the Panthers defense. She played a perfect cross to Doody who finished into the open net for her second score of the night.
Maryland's victory celebration intensified a bit when the public address announcer reported the final of the Wake - NC State game. The Terps will travel to Charlottesville on Sunday to face the Virginia Cavaliers in the first round of the ACC Tournament. The Terrapin players, who expressed a quiet confidence after the game, face a tall order. UVA is not merely the top seed in the ACC Tournament, they are the only unbeaten and untied team in the NCAA and the Terps will have to face them in Charlottesville for a second time this season. Making the task a bit more difficult, Maryland will again be without the services of forward Ashley Spivey who Morgan does not expect back this year.