So this recap is intended to provide the best summary I can of two Friday games I didn't see - both of which the Terrapins won. I'll start with men's soccer which pulled out a 2-1 overtime win at Virginia Tech to notch a share of the ACC regular season title.
The Terps got on the board early in the fifth minute of play when senior Patrick Mullins got behind the Hokies defense but saw his shot saved by Tech's goaltender Kyle Renfro. However, Schillo Tshuma had himself in position to pick up the rebound and he found the back of the net. Playing an aggressive style that has become something of a hallmark in the latter part of the season, the Terps peppered Renfro with shots forcing the seinor keeper to make five additional saves for the half including several described as "quality" saves.
The Terrapins' shots came in the sixth minute by Tsubasa Endoh whose shot earned the first of the Terps four corner kicks of the half. Chris Odoi-Atsem's header in the eighteenth minute gave Renfro his third save of the match and Mullins' shot just over two minutes later was also saved. In controlling the run of play, the Terps also allowed Tech only three shots for the half with the first not coming until the twenty sixth minute. Though Maryland's freshman goalkeeper Zack Steffen wasn't called upon to make a first half save, he was bailed out by the crossbar on a Virginia Tech header with one second to play in the half. Surviving the close call allowed Maryland to take a 1-0 lead into the half.
As the second half opened, the Terps continued to press for a second goal starting with Endoh's shot just a minute and a half in. Maryland managed eight more shots and four more corner kicks through the run of play forcing Renfro into three additional saves. The Terps inability to push one past Renfro caught up with them in with just two minutes and six seconds remaining when the Hokies evened the score on a header that nudged past Steffen.
Like the Terps overtime win in field hockey, the soccer overtime was brief. With just over a minute gone, Alex Shinsky, according to Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski's description, "beat two guys down the side of the box and whipped in a great ball that Patrick [Mullins] finished clinically." The win gave Maryland a share of the ACC regular season title - the twenty-fourth in the program's history- and earned the top seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament by virtue of a tiebreaker. The Terps will host eighth seeded Boston College at Ludwig field Tuesday night at 7:00 pm. The ACC finals and semi-finals will be held at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown beginning Friday, November 15.
Down in Tampa, the women's basketball team opened their season against the University of South Florida Bulls. USF took eventual Final Four team the Cal Bears to overtime in the second round of last season's NCAA Tournament and received a handful of votes in the preseason coaches poll. This game looked to be a game Maryland should win but that would give them a reasonably good test to open the season on the road.
Though the Terps only managed an eight point win I think we learned a few things about this year's team. The first is that Maryland can win games against quality opposition without its star of stars Alyssa Thomas playing well. Thomas was saddled with foul trouble picking up her second foul just over five minutes into the game, her third just twenty-eight seconds into the second half and her fourth with over nine minutes to go. The senior finished the night with only four points and three rebounds while being limited to ten minutes of playing time. Laurin Mincy stepped up to lead the team with fifteen points.
The second thing we learned is that the Terrapins' freshman class looks like they will not only be very good but will contribute early and often. Starting point guard Chloe Pavlech picked up two fouls in just over a minute and only saw four minutes of action. However, she was ably backed up by returning sophomore Brene Moseley who scored ten points including draining several pressure free throws late in the game, but perhaps more impressive was the performance of Lexie Brown. The freshman from Atlanta dished out six assists while only turning the ball over once and added eleven points while playing a team high thirty two minutes.
But Brown wasn't the only freshman to impress. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough played a remarkably efficient game. The Aliquippa, PA native scored twelve points in just twelve minutes of action shooting four for six from the field, making her only three point attempt at a key point in the game when the Terps saw their fifteen point halftime lead cut to six and going a perfect three for three from the free throw line. But it doesn't stop there. Brionna Jones, Maryland's 6'4" center from Aberdeen gave the Terps twenty solid minutes scoring eight points and pulling down the same number of rebounds while sharing post duties with Malina Howard and Alicia DeVaughn. The fourth member of the freshman class, A'Lexus Harrison didn't make the trip.
On the downside, we also learned that the Terps have some work to do on the boards. Traditionally, Maryland teams under Brenda Frese have been among the best rebounding teams in the country. USF held their own against Maryland - literally. Both teams finished with forty-nine. Of course, with Thomas out for three-quarters of the game the Terps will lose some rebounding prowess.
Finally, I think we learned that Maryland will make big plays down the stretch in tight games and that they appear to be a very good free throw shooting team gong 23-28. And the guards, in particular, were very sharp.
As for the game itself, USF scored the first basket of the game. They also led 4-3 scoring after Lexie Brown dropped in a three pointer with Pavlech sitting on the bench after drawing two fouls in the first minute and a half. As Maryland played much of the half without Thomas and Pavlech, USF hung with the Terps staying generally within four to six points - occasionally less and occasionally more - and the last media timeout was one of those occasionally less moments. Maryland went into the under four minute time out clinging to a two point lead at 28-26. Coming out of the timeout Mincy hit two free throws to ignite a 15 to 2 run to close the half and the Terps took a comfortable 43-28 margin into the break.
After USF scored the first basket of the second half, Thomas picked up an offensive foul - her third - sending her back to the bench with 19:32 to play. Even with Thomas on the bench, the home team (I just have trouble writing Bulls for a team of female athletes.) didn't penetrate deeply into the Terrapin lead which stood at ten with just over ten minutes to play. However, when USF scored back to back baskets to cut the lead to six, Frese called a timeout and inserted Thomas into the game. The senior responded immediately scoring her only basket of the night. Thomas was on the floor for all of twenty-eight seconds before she picked up her fourth foul and returned to the bench. The Terps built the lead back to eleven on a Mincy hoop with just under six minutes to play. USF closed to within four with forty seconds to play but Thomas (2) and Moseley (4) made all six of their free throws in the final twenty-one seconds to seal the win.
The Terps are home on Sunday with a 2 pm matchup with Loyola before the big kahuna UConn comes to Comcast Friday for a 6 pm game.