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Maryland Women's Soccer Falls 1-0 to West Virginia

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Maryland struggled at times against the highly ranked Mountaineers, who scored a tap-in off a rebound in the 25th minute to knock off the Terps.

Todd Carton

Maryland knew they were in for a challenge Friday when they faced off against West Virginia, and the visitors did not disappoint as they dominated for much of the game and didn't let the Terps create many chances, handing them their first loss of the season.

First Half

The first half was all West Virginia, who outshot the Terps 15-2 in the period. The Mountaineers had a chance off a corner kick in the 6th minute but the shot was put wide. Less than a minute later, forward Nia Gordon dribbled upfield and had a 1-on-1 against Maryland keeper Rachelle Beanlands, but her lofted shot clanged off the near post. The Terps first shot came in the 22nd minute when Gabby Galanti fired from distance, but the effort was well wide.

The Mountaineers scored the goal that had been building not much later. Team Canada veteran Ashley Lawrence received a long pass just outside the box and showed her skill with a deflection that played Amandine Pierre-Louis into space. Pierre-Louis' shot from the upper right corner of the box was saved by a diving Beanlands, but she couldn't control it. The ball ended up right in front of net, and West Virginia's Kailey Utley was able to beat defender Amanda Gerlitz to the ball and tap it into the open net.

West Virginia did not ease up the pressure after their 25th minute goal, just failing to connect on two dangerous crosses not much later, and even hitting the crossbar from distance. The Terps' had a chance late in the half off a turnover in the Mountaineer defense, but after a couple good passes from Alex Anthony and Erika Nelson, WVU was able to recover and clear any danger. Their only shot on goal of the half came when a throw-in found its way into the middle of the box, and Alex Anthony did well to get a shot off, but it was blocked.

Second Half

Maryland switched from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 to start the second half, and it made a difference. They still struggled to create chances from themselves, but they did a much better job of preventing West Virginia from pushing the ball upfield. West Virginia had the first chance of the half when Ashley Lawrence found space on the flank, but Shannon Collins made a tackle to end the threat. Gabby Galanti nearly equalized after finding space at the top of the box after a corner, but she couldn't get her curling shot inside the back post. The closest call for Maryland in the second half was when Riley Barger flicked the ball back to Sarah Molina, whose first-time shot from outside the box was just wide.

The half was much more even, and had long stretches without many threats. In the 65th, West Viriginia found the crossbar for the second time after a nice through ball forced Beanlands off her line. Midfielder Sarah Fichtner tested keeper Hannah Steadman for the second time of the game with a shot from outside the box, but it was a low shot that didn't cause much movement from Steadman.

Pushing forward with just over 7 minutes left, defender Shannon Collins nearly found Galanti behind the defense with a long ball, but Steadman was just able to beat the forward to the ball. They also earned a free kick in a pretty dangerous position with under 5 minutes, but West Virginia played fine defense, as they did all night, and cleared the danger.

Takeaways

After a first half where the Terrapins looked very out of sorts and "wide-eyed," as head coach Jonathan Morgan said, they showed marked improvement in the second half. Morgan was pleased with the second half performance, and took some blame for the first half problems. "Trying to match up with [West Virginia's midfield] 3 against 3 was a pretty poor decision," said Morgan, further explaining why he elected to change the formation at halftime.

The defense, by and large, played well, as many of West Virginia's 21 shots came from outside the box. "Not a lot got through us," Beanlands pointed out, "there were a lot of shots from the outside and from long-range." Jonathan Morgan called West Virginia "athletically special" and also commended the defense's play. "We got them where we wanted them at times, but then a special players is able to break the pressure."

Especially in the first half, the Mountaineers passes often found players with plenty of space to work with, and even some of the more tightly-defended players were able to make plays around the defense. Maryland played tighter in the second half, thanks to the extra midfielder inserted at halftime.

Just like always, it will be a question of whether and from where the Terps can find some offense. The midfield performed much better in the second half, so the 4-4-2 could be a theme as the level of opposition rises.

Maryland looks to bounce back Sunday against La Salle, who have tied both games they've played in 2015.