With 19 seconds to play in the first half against Rutgers, Natasha Ntone-Kouo scored Maryland's second goal and helped propel the Terps to a 2-0 win to open Big Ten conference play for the women's soccer squad. Since then, Maryland has played 245 minutes and 19 seconds of soccer against B1G foes. They haven't scored.
The back to back shutouts, made the third and fourth times the Terrapins have failed to score in the season's first eight games. By virtue of strong defensive play, Maryland salvaged a 0-0 tie with Michigan State but the 1-1-1 home stand leaves them in eighth place in the league and makes the prospect of playing six of their final ten contests on the road significantly more challenging.
What could be
One game short of the halfway point of the season Maryland sits with a record of 3-3-2 a record that could be legitimately be 5-1-2 if the Terps could finish effectively. Let's review:
At Pepperdine: Maryland failed to score in the second game of the season against a quality Pepperdine squad that stands at 6-1-1 and is currently ranked 12th in the country and likely to move up after their road win at USC last week. The Terps played evenly with the Waves but were denied by the crossbar and four saves by Pepperdine's keeper turning a possible tie into a loss.
At Navy: The Terrapins out shot the Midshipmen 29-13 including a 7-2 advantage in the two overtime periods. They had nine corner kicks to Navy's three. Navy goalkeeper Dayton Weatherby made 11 saves - many under duress. For all that effort, Maryland managed only a single goal in a 1-1 tie that could (and likely should) have been a win.
Versus Michigan: Unable to adjust to Michigan's close marking of Maryland's midfield in the game's early minutes, Maryland started slowly. After the game a mildly exasperated Terrapins' head coach Jonathan Morgan said, "They closed down quickly and got pressure immediately and we showed no composure dealing with that pressure. By not taking care of the ball, we probably played them in on four of their six first half shots I was disappointed in the way our midfield failed to handle the pressure."
The Terps finally did adjust in the second half and, while the Wolverines clearly looked to be the better team in the first half, the Terrapins looked to have the edge in the second. Though Maryland began to find space to attack in the second half, they failed in one critical part of the game according to Morgan, "It's about the penalty area and winning that as much as it is winning between the eighteens. Michigan did a better job in the penalty area than we did. We weren't able to create much but when we did, there were no mistakes on their end. Most of their shots were from distance and weren't really dangerous. But when they had an opportunity to be dangerous, they capitalized on the mistake on our part."
Cory Ryan had one very good look from distance but failed to get the ball past Michigan goalkeeper Megan Hinz. After Michigan scored in the 83rd minute, Maryland responded well and had their best opportunity in the game's final minute on a corner kick. "We got a free look at the goal and in training Erika Nelson is burying that. She's got to bury it in competition. It was a great service by Shannon (Collins), Nelly is exactly where she needs to be, and she just didn't attack it the way she should." Thus, the Terps were saddled with another loss that could have been a tie.
Versus Michigan State: In a home game that had eerie echoes of the game at Navy, Maryland fairly well dominated the run of play but simply failed to capitalize on their opportunities. The Terps again started slowly but seemed more comfortable and better prepared to handle Michigan State's ball pressure. The Spartans did have two breakaway chances in the first half but quick defensive recovery and a strong presence in goal by Rachelle Beanlands kept the visitors off the board.
Meanwhile, Maryland was busy creating some dangerous chances of their own. The Terps held a 16-6 advantage in shots in regulation and 7-2 in the overtimes. Sarah Fichtner had a chance to secure the win for Maryland in the first overtime. She took a cross from Shade Pratt but Startans' keeper Courtney Clem denied her header from six yards with a spectacular diving save.
Said Morgan, "I'm proud of the group. They executed everything we asked them to do and it all showed with the exception of the final piece. We have to get them in front of goal more often and build that confidence."
One positive take away from the Terps' performance has been their play on the defensive side of the ball. Since conceding three goals to defending national champion UCLA in the season opener, Maryland has yielded only four goals in the ensuing seven games.
"We're just figuring out Big Ten style of play particularly in the way they get numbers behind the ball. It's something we haven't seen and it's taking us time to adjust to it," Morgan said. The Terps have a few more days to make that adjustment before traveling to Iowa City where they will face the 8-1 (3-0) Iowa Hawkeyes in the first of two crucial back to back road games. If they can make those adjustments, particularly with respect to finishing in the final third, Maryland still has the time and opportunity to make some noise in their inaugural B1G season.