BTN announcer Dan Kelly called it a perfect fall day in Ann Arbor as the Maryland Terrpains took to the pitch to face the Penn State Nittany Lions in a Big Ten Tournament semifinal. The day wasn't so perfect for Penn State as they lost a 1-0 decision falling to the Terps for the second time this season and becoming the latest notch in Maryland's now 13 game win streak.
First Half - A slow start, lots of action and no goals
The game got underway a few minutes past the scheduled 1:00 pm start time. The initial possession belonged to Maryland and the Terps immediately started to probe the Nittany Lions' defense. After Katie Gerzabek made a steal in the midfield, Anna Dessoye drove into the circle and got off Maryland's first shot just over two minutes into the game but, as she would do all afternoon, Nittany Lions goalie Kylie Licata made the save.
Penn State, however, would draw the game's first penalty corner just past the six minute mark. Brooke Cabrera made the save but twice Maryland failed to clear and twice more Penn State picked up penalty corners. Twice more, Cabrera and Maryland's defense responded. Once the Nittany Lions got the ball into their offensive half, the Terps had some trouble clearing the zone and Penn State picked up a fourth penalty corner but again failed to convert.
After another shot by Dessoye and another save by Licata, the Terps picked up their first penalty corner of the game. The attempted redirect off Sarah Sprink's shot went high and Maryland failed to take advantage of their first chance. The teams were scoreless at the first television timeout.
A defensive struggle over the first quarter of the game became even more physical after the timeout. Penn State challenged Maryland at every opportunity and effectively stifled Maryland's efforts to counter attack. A bit of controversy arose in the 28th minute on a shot by Gerzabek. She pushed a high shot from a step or two inside the scoring circle. Licata got a glove on Moira Putsch's redirect of the shot and it caromed off the post. Gerzabek thought she had scored and asked for a video review which eventually upheld the judgment on the field.
Maryland had worked their way into a better rhythm throughout the latter stages of the half even picking up their second penalty corner just before time expired but just as Maryland couldn't crack Licata, Penn State couldn't get a ball past Cabrera. In a half where the Terps out shot the Nittany Lions 7-4, Penn State's keeper finished the half with three saves as did Maryland's Cabrera.
Second Half - An early score and some tense moments
Maryland got things started early in the second half and, as has often been the case this season, Putsch was in the middle of things. The freshman drove into the circle and drew a penalty corner. Sarah Sprink had some difficulty stopping the insertion and drove the ball to her right. Her initial shot was blocked but Emma Rissinger was in the right spot to pick up the rebound and score in the 38th minute to give Maryland 1 - 0 lead.
Over the next eight minutes the Terrapins ratcheted up the pressure as they have all season and at one point it nearly proved disastrous. A misplay on a back pass gave Penn State a one on one chance with Cabrera. Maryland's goalie came out far from the cage and deflected the shot by Taylor Herrold. The ball bounced freely in the circle for a few seconds but a Penn State player touched it with her body and Maryland survived unscathed.
Meanwhile the Terps picked up three more penalty corners over the first nine minutes of the half. However, Licata met every challenge and kept Penn State within a goal. Another piece of Maryland's attacking strategy seemed to be to blast passes from outside the circle looking for a redirect. On four occasions, the Terps sent untouched passes into the cage.
The Nittany Lions made things tense for Maryland over the last 12 minutes or so keeping pressure on the Terrapins in their defensive half for much of that stretch. After Penn State picked up a late penalty corner with just under two minutes to play, the Terps were able to clear and run out the clock holding on for the 1-0 win and advancing to the title game where they will face the winner of the second semifinal between Michigan and Northwestern Sunday afternoon.