The frustration in Maryland head soccer coach Sasho Cirovski's voice was nearly palpable. The same was true of the disappointment of red shirt senior forward Jake Pace as both answered questions about the Terrapins puzzling collapse against the VCU Rams in Sunday night's 3-2 loss at Ludwig Field.
The Terps started quickly with Sunny Jane getting s decent look at the goal just forty seven seconds in but VCU's goalkeeper Andrew Wells was in place to make a routine save. Despite a VCU corner in the seventh minute, the Terps were the team forcing the action and putting on the pressure. Maryland had a corner of its own in the tenth minute but Wells again had the answer for Alex Crognale's header. By the time the Rams got their first good look at the Terrapins' goal in the twenty ninth minute on a one on one breakaway for which freshman Zack Steffen had the answer, the Terps had launched six shots and Wells had four saves. The Maryland pressure paid off in the thirty-third minute when Patrick Mullins, attacking from the right chipped a little sand wedge of a pass that Pace headed in past the keeper's left. Maryland continued probing but VCU held steady keeping their defensive shape and preventing the Terps from puncturing it again. At the half, Maryland held an 11-4 edge in shots and a 3-1 edge in corner kicks.
The second half started somewhat cautiously for both squads with neither able to manage any real threat for the first ten minutes or so. That changed when Maryland earned bac to back corners in the fifty-eighth minute but Wells deflected Schillo Tshuma's shot and Crognale's shot soared high. The defensive play continued until the seventy first minute when a Maryland steal in the midfield led to Mullins feeding Chrish Odoi-Atsem whose shot on the inside post ripped the back of the net. The goal was Odoi-Atsem's first as a Terrapin and provided Maryland with an apparently comfortable 2-0 cushion with just over eighteen minutes to play.
Then in the seventy eighth minute, disaster struck for Maryland and the Terps began to unravel. VCU's plan of attack for the entire game seemed to be to try to use the speed of their forwards and midfield to get behind the Maryland defense and rush the goal on breakaways. Until this point, the Terps had done a solid job of staying in front and keeping control of this style. However, when the Rams succeeded Steffen came off his line and collided with the Rams attacker leading to a penalty kick that cut the deficit in half with 12:52 to play. The play energized VCU and shifted the momentum. Cirovski said, "We started panicking a little bit on the field. We lost our composure with the ball and that gave them a lot of outlets to pass." Just over a minute after the penalty kick, the Rams again got behind the Terrapin defense and with the collision fresh in his mind Steffen hesitated just long enough in coming out to counter giving VCU forward Kharlton Belmar enough of an advantage to score the tying goal. With just over three minutes remaining, VCU forward Devon Fisher scored the game winner on another breakaway.
Maryland hits the road for two ACC games taking on the top ranked UNC Tar Heels on Friday, September thirteenth and traveling to Clemson for a match on the twenty-first. The Terps then begin a four game home stand with a game against Old Dominion on Tuesday, September twenty-fourth.
The women's soccer team also dropped their game on Sunday. After falling to twenty second ranked UC Santa Clara 1-0 Friday night, the Terps were shut out by the fourth ranked Stanford Cardinal 3-0 who registered their seventieth consecutive home field win in Palo Alto on Sunday. The Terrapins again appeared to have trouble penetrating Stanford's defense. Unlike Friday's game where Maryland managed only seven shots but failed to get one on goal, the Terps were again held to seven shots but had three on goal on Sunday including a blistering shot from twenty-five yards by Haley Brock on which the Stanford goalie made a fully extended two-handed save.. The Cardinal outshot Maryland 20-7 and forced Maryland goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands into a season high six saves. The set plays held much of the magic for Stanford as they scored on two of their ten corners. In between the two corners Stanford freshman Ryan Walker-Hartshorn who has moved to forward after starting the season at outside back scored on a half volley from close in after a Stanford player fired a ball into the goal mouth.
Over at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex, coach Missy Meharg's second ranked field hockey team was the lone bright spot for Maryland sports on Sunday as the second ranked Terrapins took care of business against the seventeenth ranked Drexel Dragons by an 8-3 final moving the Terps to 4-0 on the young season.
Maryland got started early as junior Maxine Fluharty made a pass from down low to fellow preseason All ACC performer Jill Witmer who blasted a high shot from the top left of the circle to give Maryland a 1-0 lead just 4:47 into the game. The Terps maintained their pressing style and needed less than two minutes to score again as junior attack Katie Gerzabek drove along the baseline from the right side. She looked as though she was planning to pass to Anna Dessoye who was stationed along the left post but when the Drexel defense shifted to cover the pass, the junior forward turned it into a shot and found the cage. The early Terrapin barrage wasn't quite done as Witmer notched her second goal of the day rebounding her own blocked shot.
A time out seemed to energize the visitors and they bounced back scoring two consecutive goals. The first came off what Meharg called a perfectly executed corner and the second on a defensive breakdown that left a Drexel player open in front of the goal for an easy score in the sixteenth minute. The Terps countered earning a penalty corner of their own just under two minutes later but the Dragons' goaltender made three successive saves that temporarily prevented Maryland from extending their lead. She was unable to match those heroics on the Terrapins' next corner as Sarah Sprink's rocket deflected off a Drexel defender's stick into the goal extending Maryland's lead back to two. With just thirty seconds remaining in the half, freshman Mieke Hayn scored the second goal of her Terrapin career positioning herself at the left post to rebound a blocked shot and flick it into the cage. At the break, Maryland held a 21 - 4 advantage in shots doing a good job "protecting the shell" as Sprink describes Maryland's defensive philosophy. The Terps also held a three to one edge in penalty corners, and most importantly, a 5-2 lead on the scoreboard. The lead might have been larger had it not been for a strong thirteen save performance from the Drexel goalkeeper.
Even with a three goal lead, Maryland continued their relentless pressure coming out of the locker room needing just two and a half minutes to earn their first of two back to back corners. The second, coming early in the thirty-ninth minute, led to Sprink's second goal of the day - a blistering low drive that smacked off the board with a resounding thwack. Goal number seven for the day came off Shelby Sydnor's stick and again, Gerzabek was in the middle of the action. The junior from Springfield, PA drove the ball into the circle and when the defense shifted toward her, passed to Sydnor at the left post for the score. The Terrapins final goal was a thing of beauty. Positioned on the right post, senior Welma Luus knocked in a spinning shot that she completed with a flair that electrified the crowd and that Sarah Sprink said was "typical Welma." Drexel scored a late goal but Maryland came away with a comfortable 8-3 win.
Next up for the Terps is the Terrapin Invitational - the second and third matches in a five game home stand. Maryland will face Columbia on Saturday the fourteenth at 11:00 am followed by a match with Miami of Ohio at 2:00 pm on Sunday.
On a personal note, I watched the game from the sidelines with my friends Greg, Paul and Sophie Bernstein. The game was two year old Sophie's first. Here's hoping she's a future Terrapin star.