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Maryland women's soccer senior night loss to Wisconsin all too familiar

In a tale that the seniors know all too well, the Terrapins dropped a close game despite having a good showing overall.

James Crabtree-Hannigan

Women's soccer celebrated senior night Saturday at Ludwig Field, and unfortunately their game against Wisconsin followed a script that they have been a part of far too often. Maryland put together a good performance against a talented team, but came up just short, losing to Wisconsin 1-0 on an 80th minute goal.

Maryland started all nine seniors that were available to play tonight, leaving the injured Erika Nelson as the lone senior on the bench. Head coach Jonathan Morgan stuck with the lineup for deep into the half, not making a substitution until 30 minutes into the game, and sending the same lineup to start the second half. "We let them play," Morgan explained, "and when that adrenaline runs off, we figure out what to do next."

The Badgers racked up 12 shots in the first half, but the Terrapins were pleased with their defense, and they had reason to be. Wisconsin virtually never penetrated into the box, taking many shots from long distance and being forced to create attacks from the flanks. "They executed what we asked them to," Morgan said of the defense.

Much of the Badger offense runs through their midfielders, so the Terrapins knew they had to be sure to keep the ball and players in front of them, and were successful in doing so. Wisconsin had some space on the flanks, but the Terrapins backline never looked exposed or out of sorts. "Defensively, we were pretty solid tonight" defender Shannon Collins said.

Morgan agreed, noting that "Wisconsin resorted to taking shots from 25 yards out the entire first half, and with Rachelle Beanlands in goal, I don't mind that at all."

Indeed, Beanlands was rarely stressed in goal, with many of Wisconsin's first-half shots reaching her on a bounce. She did face a tough test in the 39th minute, though, when she dove at full-extension to push a shot that came from the wing.

Not long after, Wisconsin goalkeeper Caitlyn Clem also faced her toughest test of the half, coming when Madison Turner lobbed a shot that Clem had to rise up to and punch over the bar. Maryland's offense in the first half, though, was quite disjointed, and the team took just four shots in the first 45.

Both teams made adjustments to their formation at half time, and both were successful. Maryland switched from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2, adding an extra player in midfield as a reaction to Wisconsin's tactics that were spreading the field wide. "They were putting too much stress on our wide back," Morgan said, "and I think the switch helped us."

Maryland did look improved in the second half, and they matched Wisconsin's shot total in the half with seven. Morgan thought that the team "did a much better job of holding onto the ball in the second half," and pointed to forwards Alex Anthony and Gabby Galanti as players who particularly improved after the break. Though their possession and shot total improved, they still had very few true goal-scoring opportunities.

The defense stayed strong as well, and like the first half, most of Wisconsin's second-half attacks had little teeth. However, they broke through in the 80th minute off a corner kick that was partially cleared, but lingered in the box and was scored from 10 yards out by Micaela Powers.

"It was a bit unfortunate," defender Sarah Fichtner said of the goal. "The ball bounced right there for Powers, and it was a beautiful finish." Collins described it as "a scramble," but Morgan explained that that's the type of goal Wisconsin has lived off of. "Almost half of their goals come off of restarts, he said, "and ultimately that's what got us today."

"We didn't step to go block the shot after the corner, and they were able to put it away."

In doing so, the Badgers also put away at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title, and they celebrated on the field postgame with shirts, hats, and the Big Ten trophy. Morgan hoped the team would learn from seeing that happen, saying that it's clear that they "need to do a little bit more" to get to where they want to be.

There's still one more game on the schedule this season, and Morgan is hopeful that the team can notch its seventh win of the season in it, which would mean improving on their win total from last season. That final game is on the road against Nebraska on Wednesday at 8 PM, and will be streamed on BTN+.