Head coach Ray Leone referenced earlier in the week that Maryland women’s soccer had to play its best against ninth-ranked Rutgers, but even if it did, it would have problems limiting the Scarlet Knights’ offense.
In the ninth minute, forward Riley Tiernan was speeding into Maryland’s defensive third and approaching the 18-yard box. Tiernan let loose a beautiful through ball to forward/midfielder Amirah Ali. The Portland Thorns FC’s third round draft pick in January only needed one touch as she scooted behind the Maryland defense, striking one off Maryland goalkeeper Liz Brucia and into the left side of the net to give Rutgers a 1-0 lead.
Less than one minute later, Rutgers would double its lead. A foul by forward Anna Carazza in the box led to a Rutgers penalty kick. The Scarlet Knights would have an opportunity to blow the game open as midfielder/defender Becci Fluchel stepped up to the plate. Already nailing both of her penalty kick attempts this season, Fluchel would and do the same in the 10th minute, burying her shot past a diving Brucia to put Rutgers on top by two.
The two-goal sequence established the tone for the match, and Rutgers dominated Maryland en route to a 5-2 win.
“When the game was kind of out of hand after the [first] half, we really just focused on Terp pride, to come out and play because they played well,” Leone said.
It was a perfect October night at Ludwig Field, as the Terps donned pink warm-up shirts before kickoff in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Rutgers came storming out of the gates, putting everything they could towards the net in the early going. With six shots and two corner kicks in the first eight minutes, something was bound to fall soon.
The back-to-back goals from Ali and Fluchel put the Scarlet Knights up 2-0 just under ten minutes into this one.
The pace of play was wide-open though, allowing Maryland to construct a response within minutes. Forward Mikayla Dayes, from about halfway between midfield and the 18-yard box, sent a flawless pass that split two Rutgers defenders and found a gliding Loren Sefcik. The midfielder gained possession right at the top of the box and took one touch before chipping one by the diving goalkeeper Meagan McClelland to cut the deficit in half.
However, the Terps continued their struggle in keeping the Big Ten’s most prolific offense at bay. With the ball trickling towards the net in the 16th minute, Rutgers’ offense would not stop its pursuit to a third goal. Brucia dove to secure the ball, but it ultimately popped up, and Fluchel was right there in front of the open net. She kicked it into the back of the open net for her second goal, extending the Scarlet Knights’ lead to 3-1.
The Scarlet Knights would not stop there, continuing to dominate possession on Maryland’s side of the field. A second foul by the Terps, this time by defender Zora Jackson, led to a second penalty kick for Rutgers. This time, it was forward Allison Lowrey ready for the kick after getting fouled seconds before. Lowrey stuck it in the left corner of the net as Brucia dove to the right, and Rutgers now held a commanding 4-1 lead.
In less than 20 minutes of game time, five goals were scored, a vast difference from the 0-0 draws that Maryland played in just three weeks ago.
Maryland had to hold its breath in the 32nd minute as star defender Malikae Dayes went down appearing to tend to an undisclosed injury before coming off the field with a trainer. Fortunately for the Terps, Dayes came back in the second half.
Rutgers nearly extended its four-goal lead to five in the 44th minute, but a Brucia save and a couple of blocked shots prevented that from happening before halftime. The first 45 minutes ended with Rutgers leading 4-1, outshooting the Terps 14-3 with an impressive nine shots on goal.
“I think we just have to stay connected and stay positive,” midfielder Catherine DeRosa said. “Players are gonna get beat but we have to cover for each other and our cover’s a little bit late right now, but I think it’s something that is an easy fix.”
As seen throughout Big Ten play to keep both goalies fresh, goalkeeper Madeline Smith relieved Brucia of her duties to start the second half.
The Terps tried to string together some offense early in the second half with consecutive corner kicks in the 50th minute. Defender Adalee Broadbent’s header attempt was off target on the second, and Rutgers regained possession.
Shortly after, the Scarlet Knights would put in their fifth goal of the night. Tiernan, maintaining possession from a few yards outside the 18-yard box, was manned by forward Emily McNesby. Tiernan used her speed to beat McNesby all the way to the near post, where she dropped off a dime to midfielder Frankie Tagliaferri who knocked one into the empty net from six yards out.
With the way the game was going, the goals would not stop there. This time, Maryland was fortunate enough to get on the scoreboard once again.
Off a throw-in, Maryland’s offense was moving the ball nicely in the attacking third. Eventually the ball swung over to forward Toni Domingos at the top of the box. She turned and swung a pass over to DeRosa. DeRosa had to come back to the ball, but blasted a beauty on net. McClelland dove, but never had a chance as DeRosa’s curving shot made it a 5-2 ballgame in the 63rd minute.
“My teammate Toni got the ball and I kind of made that late weak side run,” DeRosa said. “I knew that I had to hit it first time and right foot, right post.”
Rutgers was seemingly unfazed and easily could have had a sixth goal on defender Faith Dobosiewicz’s shot in the 79th minute.
With exactly three minutes to play, a yellow card was handed out to midfielder Hayley Baer after taking down defender Alexis Hogarth.
Time soon expired, and Rutgers put the finishing touches on a triumph where it registered a whopping 26 shots.
“We're going to realize that they played really good soccer against a top-10 team in the country,” Leone said. “So if they can do it against them, they can do it against anybody.”
Three things to know
1. Rutgers’ offense completely controlled the first half. Heading into Thursday’s matchup with the Terps, Rutgers ranked fifth in the entire nation in scoring with 3.15 goals per game. It was also first or second in the conference in shots, shots on goal, assists, points and corner kicks. The Scarlet Knights’ four goals came in a bunch and completely set the tone for the night. Although Rutgers only controlled 55% of the possession in the first half, a remarkable 78% of it was on the Maryland side of the field.
2. The Scarlet Knights were as advertised. The Terps knew they would have their hands full entering Thursday night, as Rutgers is the ninth-ranked team in the nation for a reason. Its dominant victory over Maryland brought it three points closer to a Big Ten regular season title with only three games to play in the regular season. The Terps played then-17th ranked Rutgers to a 0-0 draw on March 13, but this Rutgers team is clearly on a more elite level this season.
“They just move the ball real nice and open you up in different ways,” Leone said on the Scarlet Knights’ offense. “Their wingers are fantastic.”
3. Despite the result, Maryland’s offense had a bit of a breakthrough. In Big Ten play, the Terps’ offensive attack has been so stagnant. Maryland had not had a two-goal performance in a conference game and had not had one since its 3-1 victory over George Washington on Sept. 2. With star forward Alyssa Poarch out for the season, matters have become harder for the Terps. Maryland has three games to try and build on this perform before the regular season comes to a close.
“They were composed on their finishing there, which was a great thing because they were relaxed,” Leone said. “They scored the goal, they hit through the ball, so that, we just need to get more chances, we didn't get enough.”