The Terrapins were playing for their postseason lives on a cold Sunday afternoon in College Park. The team's tie earlier in the week against Indiana reduced its margin of error to zero. The Terps had just one point in the standings through seven games and needed to win out just to have a chance to play in the Big Ten tournament.
Bursting the bubble
At halftime, Maryland attempted to set a world record for the number of people who blew a bubble and held it for 30 seconds. They needed over 700 people. The amount that showed up was considerably less. It was a fitting metaphor for Maryland's season.
The sports marketing team needed hundreds more people. The team needed people to step up this season. Neither happened. The marketing team needed hundreds. Maryland needed one or two players to help out more on offense.
The Terrapins' season effectively ended today when they were mathematically eliminated from postseason play after losing in double overtime at home to Purdue. They will finish outside of the top eight in the conference for the second straight season.
It's de`ja` vu all over again
The inability to score despite multiple opportunities. The close, agonizing losses. The injury-plagued teams. The bad breaks. The unlucky bounces. We've seen it all before from this team. "Luck hasn't been on our side," said senior goalie Rachelle Beanlands after the game.
Last year, Maryland went 0-3-4 to close out the season. They dropped from the top eight in the standings and were eliminated from postseason play on the last day of the regular season.
The Terps have yet to win back-to-back regular season conference games (in either the ACC or Big Ten) since October 11th of 2012. It has been over three years since Maryland won two in a row in conference play.
The Terps were shutout nine times last season. They've been shutout six times this season and haven't scored more than one goal in a game in conference play. Why? Why has Alex Anthony scored ten goals this season and no one else on the team has more than one? Why is the team's shooting percentage less than nine percent? These are very good players. Why haven't they been able to finish?
This team has battled and been competitive in almost every single game this season but the results just aren't there. Head Coach Jonathan Morgan said, "It's just been that type of season. I'm happy with how the girls played and how hard they worked."
(We must) Protect this house
"Ludwig is our field. It's our home. It's 'Protect Ludwig'. You can't disrespect the field." Riley Barger said that after Maryland's home win against Navy in their second game of the season. The Terps have not protected Ludwig well this season.
Maryland is 4-5 at home this year, losing to West Virginia, James Madison, Rutgers, Michigan and now Purdue. In those five losses, Maryland managed to score only one goal. In brutally honest terms, that is not respecting your home or your field.
Maryland has played an awful lot of overtime games in the last two seasons. They played eight overtime contests last season, including a stretch where they played four overtime games in a row. The Terps have played in five this season.
Morgan has emphasized the importance of grit and determination and he thinks it is a cornerstone of what his team believes in. "These kids, they're fighters. They don't quit."
Maryland is a tough and scrappy team but the results of these overtime games speak volumes. The last overtime game the Terps won was September 12th, 2013 against Clemson at home. In the last three seasons, Maryland has played in 10 overtimes games and only won once.
The Terrapins were 0-2-6 last season in overtime games. This year, the Terps are 0-4-1 in overtime games and three of the golden goal game-winners were scored against them in the second overtime period.
No one knows what the future holds for this program and for head coach Jonathan Morgan. However, in order to talk about the future of Maryland women's soccer, we have to talk about its past.
In Morgan's first year as Maryland head coach, the team finished 11-5-2 in the regular season and went 6-3-1 in the ACC. In the ACC Championships, they made it to the finals before losing to UVA. They lost in overtime to Denver in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Shannon Collins, Rachelle Beanlands and Erika Nelson were freshmen that started on that team. Riley Barger, Amanda Gerlitz, Alexis Pryor-Brown and Gabby Galanti all saw playing time that season as well.
It would appear that this team and this program have never been the same since that loss.
Maryland went 10-10 the next season and were 6-7 in ACC play. They went one and done at the ACC Championships after taking a 6-1 shellacking from top-ranked Virginia. That was Maryland's last season in the ACC.
In their first two seasons in the Big Ten, the Terps haven't even managed to finish in the top eight in the conference. Yes, the team has been plagued by injuries but, at some point, excuses won't cut it. Maryland has to put a winning product out on the pitch.
This is one of the least successful Maryland women's soccer teams in a long time, which is strange considering how much talent they have. They have very talented players but this is not a good team. We'll never know how good this squad could have been because Pryor-Brown and Galanti both had injury problems that never allowed their potential to be fulfilled.
Morgan was effusive in his praise for his seniors. "These kids have all fought since they've been here. They've played hard. Honestly, I'm really bummed because the class that came in here...there was a lot of aspirations for that group and for whatever reason, they haven't all been able to finish together."
I would urge caution in deciding whether or not to pull the plug on Morgan. He is a really good coach. It took Brian Pensky five years to field a team with a .500 record or better in either the regular season or in conference play. He left as the all-time leader in wins in Maryland women's soccer history. Next year will be Morgan's fifth as head coach of the Terrapins. If he can't get next year's team to at least make the Big Ten tournament, calls for him to be replaced will be entirely justified.
This season for women's soccer feels like that halftime attempt to break the world record for most people blowing bubble gum and holding it for 30 seconds. Deflating.
A team that felt (at times rightfully so) perpetually unlucky for the last two years couldn't finish yet again despite having great looks at the goal. Deflating.
They will not play in the postseason for the second straight year and won't play in the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year. Three meaningless games remain on the schedule. Deflating.
Tears fell on the lush green grass of Ludwig Field this afternoon. Most of those tears came from seniors who started their careers at Maryland with such high hopes, goals, aspirations and dreams. Some of them walked off the pitch together. Some of them walked off the pitch alone.
Morgan continued, saying, "I feel disappointed for them...This is one of the teams that has had the least amount of success that I've been a part of since I've been here but it's one of the most enjoyable. They're really good kids...They do the things that you ask them to do. It's always sad when you lose seniors, especially great kids like this."
I couldn't help but feel like their own bubbles had just popped. A bubble that they each held individually yet one that also held their collective goals and dreams as a senior class. After the game and after the presser, all that remained was crushing, deafening and painful silence. The pain of goals and hopes and dreams unrealized.
Four or five years of working almost every day towards a goal and...pop.