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Rutgers beats Maryland women's soccer 1-0 with 2nd minute goal

#15 Rutgers capitalized on an early Maryland mistake, and extended their streak to 720 minutes of shutout soccer to start their season.

James Crabtree-Hannigan

In the 64th minute, Alex Anthony had the type of opportunity forwards dream of, the type that come along, at most, once a game. With Rutgers goalkeeper Casey Murphy helplessly out of position and well off her line, Anthony fired at the nearly empty net--and skied the ball over the frame.

In the second minute, Rutgers midfielder Madison Tiernan won a ball in the midfield and played it forward to Colby Ciarrocca. Ciarrocca took a slight touch that put the ball on the foot of Samantha Valliant, running unmarked towards goal. Valliant beat keeper Rachelle Beanlands to her left, and it was 1-0 Scarlet Knights before most fans had filed into Ludwig Field.

Those two moments were the difference Friday night, as Maryland dropped its first conference game 1-0 to undefeated #15 Rutgers.

The very opening of the game notwithstanding, Maryland put in a very respectable effort against the athletic Scarlet Knights. Head coach Jonathan Morgan was very pleased with his team's performance, "outside of that first minute and a half." Unfortunately for the Terps, according to Morgan, this game was another example of the team struggling within the 18-yard boxes.

Rutgers came out in a slightly different formation than Maryland was expecting, which took the Terps a bit of time to figure out. Rutgers' gameplan, and formation, was designed to deny Alex Anthony the ball and keep Maryland on the width of the field, where they suffocated the Terrapin players when they were in possession. Maryland couldn't quite do what they had to to disrupt the Rutgers defense often enough and find the back of the net.

Surrendering a goal as early as the 2nd minute is never ideal, of course, especially when facing a team that hasn't given up a single goal the entire season. "It's always hard when you have to chase so early," Morgan said. Rutgers nearly doubled up a couple minutes later off a giveaway in Maryland's defense, but defender Shannon Collins took a professional foul, and a very early yellow card, to prevent Rutgers from being through on goal yet again.

However, Morgan pointed out, "the kids were resilient, they did a good job of responding and playing." The Terps settled down quite a bit after that, and had stretches of dominating possession, if not necessarily creating great attacks. They really struggled to do anything with the space afforded to them down the flanks. "Their cover was great," Anthony said, "they made it hard for our outside forwards to get crosses off."

On the occasions when the Terps were able to at least begin to unlock the Rutgers' backline in the center of the field, the Terps couldn't take advantage. A Riley Barger through ball for Alex Anthony was dangerous, but Scarlet Knight keeper Casey Murphy dove out to prevent Anthony's cross from reaching its target.

Lisa Bianchini had a chance in the 41st minute off a Maisie McCune pass, but her shot from a tight angle on the left side was tipped over the crossbar by Murphy.

Even though the Terps did stay on ball for much of the game, Rutgers did well to apply pressure. "They just flew at us," Anthony said of the Rutgers' defense, "they didn't really let up."

In the second half, possession was a bit more even, but Maryland did a much better job of being less predictable in their attack. "We talked about it at halftime," Anthony said, "at the end there, we were getting into the box more often." After taking just 3 shots in the first half, the Terps took 5 in the second, but were still outshot on the night 9-8.

Rutgers hit the woodwork twice in the second half, both times with shots from distance. "They didn't get very many opportunities," defender Shannon Collins said of the Rutgers attack, "they didn't get behind us very much after their first goal." Rutgers didn't earn a single corner kick in the game, while Maryland racked up 3 in each half, a stat that accurately tells which team was building attack more effectively.

Anthony's crucial 64th minute chance came off the second of two consecutive corners for Maryland. "I disrupted the keeper like I'm supposed to," Anthony said of what led to the opportunity. Rutgers goalkeeper Casey Murphy had come off her line often during the game to make plays, but this one didn't go as planned for her, leading to the ball sitting tantalizingly in front of goal. Both Morgan and Anthony blamed the ensuing inaccurate shot on Anthony being off balance.

In the dying stretches of the game, the Terps had a couple long balls played into the box through the air, but Rutgers was able to prevent Maryland from getting heads on it, and secured their eighth win of the season.

The Terrapins, meanwhile, move to 5-4 on the year with the 1-0 loss, and are 0-1 in conference play. Nonetheless, there were positives to be taken from Friday night's loss. "I think we played some good soccer," Collins said.

Morgan agreed, saying "this is the best the ball movement has been with the forwards and midfielders."

"Our soccer was fantastic."

Unfortunately, it wasn't enough on Friday, due to a couple of lapses in make-or-break situations. The Terps have a bit of a break before entering the grind of the conference schedule, and their next game is next Thursday on the road at Northwestern.