The Maryland Terrapins women's soccer team traveled to Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the first of three consecutive road games to close the regular season schedule in their initial Big Ten season. In deep need of both goals and a win the Terps got neither falling to Minnesota 1-0.
First half - Same old story, same old song
Perhaps hoping to inject some life into his moribund offense, coach Jonathan Morgan started Natasha Ntone-Kouo and Shade Pratt up front and gave Erika Joab her second start of the season. And for the opening four minutes, it appeared to be a solid plan as Pratt and Ntono-Kouo combined to earn the Terrapins a corner kick before the game was two minutes old.
Maryland continued their pressure for another two minutes or so at which point the flow of the contest turned decidedly in favor of Minnesota. Once the Golden Gophers got control in the offensive half, the Terps struggled to clear the ball despite having several opportunities to do so. This rendered mounting any sort of counter moot. A stalwart defensive effort withstood the pressure and prevented any shots on goal by the home team.
For most of the half it looked as though the best chance for either squad would belong to the Terrapins. It came off a corner kick in the 28th minute. Riley Barger played the ball out high to Shannon Collins. Collins then played a cross from about 30 yards. Gabby Galanti and Minnesota's Taylor Stainbrook got their heads on the ball and directed it toward the goal. Erika Nelson came in from the right to poke it clear toward Ntone-Kuou but Gophers' goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs fell on the ball before the forwrad could get to it.
In the end, though, Minnesota had an even better chance. With under a minute to play in the half, Kellie McGahn and Julianna Gernes got behind Maryland's defense. McGahn took a through ball from Simone Kolander and crossed it to Gernes. Maryland keeper Rachelle Beanlands came far off her line to make the borderline spectacular save and the half ended in a scoreless tie.
Second half - More of the same
The Terps opened the half with possession and again went immediately forward. Aubrey Baker played a through ball in the direction of Alex Anthony who may have gotten a touch on it but either way, Hobbs picked up the easy save. As they had in the first half, Maryland also picked up an early corner kick. In fact, they picked up a series of corner kicks but the closest they would come to scoring was an Anthony header that went well wide.
Then, just as it had in the first half the flow turned quickly toward the Golden Gophers. And, as she had at the end of the half, Beanlands provided some exceptional work in goal that kept the game scoreless.
Despite a number of quality possessions for Minnesota, Maryland's defense settled in and prevented any other quality chances. In the 72nd minute, the Terps had a chance to score on a free kick that followed a Maryland corner kick. Collins played the ball into the box but the recipient was Erika Nelson who had some space but the Terrapins' defender could only manage to redirect her shot attempt off a Golden Gophers defender for another corner kick on which the Terps again failed to capitalize.
Most of the game's final 18 minutes belonged to the home team. The Golden Gophers developed one dangerous chance after another with shots that went just high or just wide or dangerous crosses that missed the foot of a charging player. Maryland's string of good fortune ended in the 84th minute when Katie Thyken took a through ball from Olivia Schultz and, unlike the situation at the end of the first half, Beanlands couldn't come up with the one on one save. The clock ticked down with the Terps unable to mount any real threat and Minnesota held on for the 1-0 win.
Life gets no easier for Maryland. They will make a relatively short trip from Minneapolis to Madison to take on one of the Big Ten's stingiest teams - the second place Wisconsin Badgers - Sunday afternoon.