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A Senior Moment: Maryland fails to convert two PKs in 1-1 tie against Illinois on Senior Day

Maryland left the pitch at Ludwig Field on Sunday afternoon with a bittersweet taste in their mouths. One the one hand, the Terps honored their two seniors, Shade Pratt and Cory Ryan, and on the other hand they tied for the fourth straight game.

On a windy Sunday afternoon in College Park, Maryland honored their two seniors, Shade Pratt and Cory Ryan, in a heartfelt and emotional ceremony before their final home game of the season against Illinois. Unfortunately for Maryland, it ended the same way as the three games that preceded it. It ended in a tie. Maryland is now 5-4-6 (3-2-5) on the season and still clings to a one point lead over Illinois for 7th place in the Big Ten standings. Maryland Head Coach Jonathan Morgan said that he sees a pattern in the team's play this season, "We collectively kind of just wait and feel teams out a little bit and then we start getting into our groove. It was no different than any other game."

The First Half

The Fighting Illini had the first chance of the game less than five minutes in but they were called off-sides. Jannelle Flaws, the Big Ten's leading goal scorer and front-runner for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, struck first for Illinois in the 20th minute on an indirect free kick from 10 yards out. Rachelle Beanlands was called for a penalty because she picked up a ball that had been kicked by a teammate. Morgan was surprised that his red-shirt junior keeper made such a simple mistake. "I think she just had a moment where she just spaced. That's a disappointing moment. It's not a mistake that she should be making at this level."

The rule is that the goalie can only pick up a ball if a teammate has headed it or played it off of another part of their body like their chest or their knee. If they play it off of their feet on a back pass, the goalie cannot pick it up.

Maryland nearly struck back less than a couple of minutes later. Maryland's corner kick was nearly headed in. The Terps got another corner kick opportunity but Riley Barger took a soft shot just inside the box that ended up on the ground when it needed to go through the air.

Late in the first half, Gabby Galanti was taken down in the box by Illinois' Hope D'Addario. Galanti's penalty kick was blocked by Claire Wheatley and Aubrey Baker's shot off of the rebound hit the crossbar as Testudo looked on. The crowd collectively groaned and Maryland's best scoring chance of the game thus far was gone. Both teams had seven shots in the half and the Terps went into halftime trailing 1-0.

The Second Half

Maryland was aggressive from the outset of the second half. Aubrey Baker took a shot midway through the second half that made it through traffic but was smothered by Wheatley. With under 26 minutes to go in the game, Sarah Fichtner dribbled through traffic in the box and had a point-blank shot at the goal but it was just wide to the right and Fichtner laid on the ground for a moment in disbelief after missing the shot.

With 19:57 left to go in the second half, Maryland finally came up with the equalizer. Alex Anthony provided a tremendous spark for the Terps. When Morgan was asked what she brings to the team he replied, "Everyone knows on our team that when she is on the field there's a chance to score." She did just that, scoring off a great feed from Maisie McCune to knot the game at one apiece. It was Anthony's second goal of the year. Anthony nearly scored again a couple of minutes later from the same spot but the shot went wide to the left.

Fichtner unleashed a shot that Wheatley dove and made a great save on. McCune's header missed and the play ended with Alex Anthony on the ground. Galanti came on to replace her. Aubrey Baker served up a beautiful cross with five minutes left in regulation but Natasha Ntone-Kuo's shot went just over the crossbar. Baker launched a beauty of a shot from the left side of the goal but Wheatley blocked it with her arm and it deflected off of the left post.

Maryland dominated the second half of play and heavily out-shot Illinois in the second half, 16-4, but it wasn't enough as the Terps just couldn't put the go-ahead goal away. Both teams headed to overtime tied 1-1. Maryland made some history on Sunday afternoon, going to overtime for the fourth straight game.

The First Overtime

Illinois drew a corner in the first minute of the first overtime period but it was cleared out by Maryland. Neither team got a great chance after that and so after 100 minutes of play, both teams went to a second overtime period to try and decide a winner.

The Second Overtime

Both teams went into the second overtime and Maryland seemed to keep their attacking focus that they had throughout the second half and the first overtime. Shade Pratt launched a cross from the right side a little under three minutes into the last overtime period but no one was there to finish the play for the Terps.

On the Illini's side, Hope D'Addario had a chance with a free kick with under five minutes left to play but Kara Marbury headed it right of the goal. Later, Jannelle Flaws launched a shot from outside of the box that Beanlands knocked out of bounds. Katherine Ratz couldn't put the shot away on the ensuing corner kick. There was under a minute to go but it was a drama-filled 50 seconds.

Maryland launched one last push to score the winner and Sarah Fichtner got behind the Illinois defense and was taken down in the box with 30.4 seconds left to earn a penalty kick. Fichtner said, "I was confident that I was gonna get it but I just mishit it and it clearly wasn't our day again." Claire Wheatley blocked the penalty kick and sent it over the bar. Shade Pratt's header was stopped by Wheatley and Wheatley kicked the ball down the field to run out the clock.

The Bottom Line

Maryland out-shot the Illini 28-16 over the course of the game and dominated the second half of play and both overtimes but once again the Terps failed to finish their chances. "The team is desperate. We need to get some results. We need to get some points and there is some added urgency that comes with that." But Morgan also pointed out that, "It's not a secret. Our finishing hasn't been great this year." Going into Sunday's game, only four teams had scored fewer conference goals than Maryland.

Penalty kicks are probably the best chance that a team can ever hope to get in soccer. It is a one on one situation and if you look at the percentage of how players convert penalty kicks during the world cup (81%), it the closest thing to a sure thing that there is in soccer. Maryland missed both of their opportunities while Illinois converted their indirect free kick which was easily their best opportunity of the game.

Morgan laid the blame on himself because he thought that "Just in theory, philosophically I just don't think the person that got fouled should shoot but both of those kids wanted the shot. There's something to say about the kids that want it. In hindsight I wish that I had someone else take the kick rather than the person that was fouled."

Claire Wheatley was an absolute monster in goal for the Fighting Illini and had nine saves on the day. She was probably the best player on the field for most of if not the entire game. While Morgan said that she was pretty spectacular, Fichtner had praise for Wheatley as well, saying, "She had some great stops and she definitely did her job today."

The Road Ahead

While Maryland is currently 7th in the Big Ten standings just a point above Illinois, they have three games left and they are all on the road. Maryland will play three games in seven days against teams that are 6th, 3rd and 1st respectively in the conference standings.

It will not be easy but Morgan expressed confidence in his team saying, "At the end of the year you want to be playing your best soccer and I think we're playing our best soccer right now...I feel pretty confident that we're going to go out and we're going to be the better soccer-playing team. There's no part of me that doubts that...If we're not the better soccer-playing team I'll be absolutely shocked."

It has been a tough season for Maryland and after yet another tie where the Terps were right on the cusp of victory, Fichtner expressed how this team may be feeling, "The soccer gods aren't on our side right now."