After winning their first Big Ten road game Friday, Maryland's women's soccer team made the 300 mile trip from Iowa City to Lincoln looking to build on that momentum as they took on the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The day in Lincoln was sunny and mild on the pitch that sits in the shadow of Memorial Stadium. The Terps scored first and came from behind twice but the Cornhuskers would eventually emerge with the 4-3 overtime win.
Getting it started early
The Terps, perhaps fired up by their red uniforms, opened with possession and, rather than just possessing the ball and feeling out the Huskers, went on the attack almost immediately. And that pressure paid an early and immediate dividend in the form of a spectacular effort by Sarah Fichtner.
The junior midfielder took the ball down the right side and dribbled into the box. Her footwork so dazzled not one, not two, but three Nebraska defenders that she faked two of them off their feet. She launched a shot toward the far post that caromed off the bar and into the back of the net. Just a minute and a half in, the Terps had a 1-0 lead.
Though it would take them nearly twenty minutes to find the equalizer, Nebraska didn't take nearly as long to wrest back control of the game. They drew two early corner kicks and had a set play after a foul in the offensive half. Though they failed to capitalize on those opportunities, they wold knot the score on a counter after Maryland's first corner.
Nebraska goalkeeper Kelly Schatz picked off the attempted cross by Shannon Collins and launched a long punt that Jaycie Jonson controlled just past midfield and worked her way toward the center of the box. Maryland's defense forced her to play it out and Johnson accommodated them. Her pass went to Caroline Gray who controlled the ball and launched a rocket past a diving Rachelle Beanlands to tie the score.
But the Cornhuskers weren't done yet. Just five minutes later on another counter attack, Mayme Conroy would take a long through ball, race behind the Terrapins defense, and with two or three long dribbles find herself alone against Beanlands eight yards from Maryland's goal. She'd win that battle easily and the Terps faced the particularly unenviable position of trailing 2-1 after 22 minutes. Maryland's position was unenviable because in 19 previous games in which the Cornhuskers had scored at least two goals, they had an 18-0-1 record.
Through the middle of the half, the home team seemed content to allow Maryland to possess the ball in their own half, often dropping all 11 players into their defensive half. The Terps needed some time to solve the puzzle but solve it they did. After another long punt by Schatz that this time found the head of a Maryland defender who punched it back across midfield. Cory Ryan won the ball just inside the offensive half. Attacking quickly, she played a pass out wide left to Gabby Galanti.
Galanti took the ball about four yards out from the corner of the six and Schatz came far off her line. Her low driving shot got past the keeper but a diving save by Nebraska defender Samantha Areman kept the ball out of net. Natasha Ntone-Kouo, trying to ward off another Cornhuskers defender, was able to get the ball to a crashing Ryan. Schatz recovered to make the another save but the ball caromed right back to the chest of the gritty midfielder who brought it down to her feet and was rewarded with the tying score in the 41st minute. The teams went to the break tied at two.
Nebraska moved their defense out a bit higher at the start of the second half but Maryland was the early aggressor. That aggression came largely in the form of Shade Pratt. Pratt's attacks into the box appeared to draw handballs on two different occasions in the first six minutes of the half. Of course, since neither was called, neither happened.
Pratt again created another near scoring opportunity for the Terrapins in the 60th minute. Taking the ball just outside the 18, the senior used her explosive first step to create some space along the right side and drove a low ball toward the opposite post. The ball looked to be going just wide but Schatz picked up the ball on the dive.
In spite of Maryland's relative dominance, it would be the Cornhuskers who broke the deadlock. The breakthrough came in the 68th minute. Casey Jourden, attacking down the right side lofted a perfect pass into the box. Jaycie Johnson, Nebraska's leading scorer, making a strong run toward the near post, was the beneficiary heading the ball past a defenseless Beanlands.
It would be up to Pratt to get the equalizer and it came in the 73rd minute. Following a disputed throw in that needed the Maryland bench to see that the officials made the correct call, Galanti helped screen Pratt's defender as she took the throw in from Shannon Collins. Pratt worked her way clear in the box after two or three touches and drove her shot toward the center of the goal and off the hand of the diving Schatz.
The game would go to overtime but not without another great Terrapins opportunity and another bit of possible controversy. With about a minute and a half to play in regulation, Maryland had a corner and once again, Nebraska appeared to get away with a hand ball in the box but once again the officials saw no hand ball so again none occurred. The Terps maintained the pressure and with just over a minute to play Fichtner nearly ended the game as she had started it but her shot from ten yards glanced off the crossbar and the teams headed to overtime.
As the shadows lengthened over the Nebraska Soccer Complex the overtime played out much as the beginning of the second half had. Maryland was the aggressor looking to open space for Pratt who managed one shot that went well wide in the 92nd minute. As it had throughout the game, it would be Nebraska's counter attack that would finally spell the end for Maryland. Again it started with Casey Jourden attacking down the right side of Maryland's defense. She got past Cory Ryan with a ball through Ryan's legs. When the junior midfielder tried to recover, the 5'6" Jourden bounced the 5'4" Ryan off her back sending Ryan to the ground like a rag doll. Jourden then made a low cross that Sarah Molina tried to clear but perhaps her tired legs failed her and as Molina went to the turf, the ball trickled to the foot of Mayme Conroy who poked it home for the game winner.
With the loss, Maryland falls to 4-4-2 on the year and 2-2-1 in conference play. The Terps return to College Park to host a Thursday - Sunday weekend first against Purdue and then against Indiana. Thursday's game with the Boilermakers is scheduled for a 7:00 pm kickoff and can be seen on BTN Plus.