Maryland head soccer coach Sasho Cirovski opened his post game remarks saying, "It was one of the great magical nights in Maryland Soccer history." And indeed it was. It was an evening that began with some misfiring pyrotechnics during the National Anthem and ended with a 3-1 Maryland win over the Duke Blue Devils in front of a Ludwig Field record crowd announced at 8,397 but was certainly larger than that as the fence jumping students were certainly not included in the official number.
Maryland dominated play early and developed their first good scoring chance in the fourth minute but Schillo Tshuma's shot went just a bit high. The Terps continued to press forward and earned the game's first corner kick just over three minutes later. In the tenth minute senior Patrick Mullins got his first chance but Duke goalkeeper Alex Long punched the ball over the net. Freshman Alex Crognale's header on the ensuing corner went wide. Meanwhile, Duke was able only to foul.
The Terrapins continued to pressure and create scoring opportunities. In the fifteenth minute, Tsubasa Endoh's shot went high. In the seventeenth minute Crognale's header hit the post. In the eighteenth minute, Mullins fired one that went wide. And then in the twenty fifth minute, the Terps made one of their few mistakes of the evening fouling about 28 yards out. On what looked to be a bit of a miss hit on the free kick that floated like a knuckle ball fooled Maryland's freshman goalkeeper, Zack Steffen, and floated into the back of the net. Despite being thoroughly outplayed for over 24 minutes, the Blue Devils led 1-0 on their only shot of the game to that point. In spite of a pair of corner kicks and two more shots, the Terps went to the locker room down by one and I was secretly hoping that the failed firework wasn't going to be an omen.
"Our team grew up a lot tonight," Cirovski said. He meant that his young team - particularly the back four and his freshman goalie - kept their composure and weren't anxious in front of the large crowd. He also meant that they played a full ninety minutes. The Terps came out aggressively in the second half as they had in the first with a shot and a corner in the first four minutes but still couldn't break through. A turning point may have come on a when Duke had an open shot at the goal in the fifty-third minute but Steffan made a brilliant save and picked up the rebound. The Terps countered and Tshuma put a pass on Endoh's left foot and the sophomore from Tokyo blasted it in from 25 yards.
It wasn't as if the atmosphere at Ludwig needed any more energy and electricity but Steffan's save and Endoh's goal supplied it. And just about nine minutes after the tying goal and on their fourth corner kick in that time frame, senior Helge Leikvang making his first start of the season, who said after the game that he, "still had goose bumps from the crowd" scored the go ahead goal for the Terps on a header off Endoh's corner kick. Leikvang spoke confidently of the team's style of play. Despite falling behind early for the third consecutive game he said, "We know our way to play. We know we're going to possess the ball and we're going to keep coming at you until we get one."
And keep coming at Duke, they did. Just two minutes later Patrick Mullins, who has not lost to Duke in his time at Maryland, put the game on ice with his second goal of the young season. He said of his goal, "That was all about movement as a team. It started with a a great move on the left side. [Alex] Shinsky with eyes in the back of his head with a little slip pass to Tsubasa streaking through then a great near post run by either Schillo or Jake [Pace] and I just moved off of that and held back a little bit and Tsubasa saw me and after that you just put in the back of the net." As for the atmosphere, he said, "I didn't want the game to end." Fortunately for Maryland fans, it did end and it ended with the Terps on the long end of a 3-1 score. The Terps take on VCU on Sunday at Ludwig in a 7:00 pm start before traveling to Chapel Hill to face the top ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on Friday.