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Maryland women’s soccer goes quiet against Michigan State, falls 2-0

The Terps have just one game left this season.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland women’s soccer made the trip back to the site of its last Big Ten victory in East Lansing, Michigan, but an improved Michigan State squad fighting for a spot in the Big Ten Tournament would make a road victory tough.

Forward Lauren DeBeau sent in a pass from the middle of Maryland territory to the 18-yard box, where forward Ava Cook was once again in the 29th minute. Defender Olivia Hicks made a heads-up play to step in and cut off the pass but was unable to clear it in time. Cook won the ball away from Hicks and took three touches before burying the ball with her left foot in the bottom left of the goal. The Spartans were leading 2-0 less than 30 minutes in, and Cook’s magic was the main reason why.

Cook’s second goal was the exclamation point of not only the first half but ultimately the entire game. It was truly Cook’s show all night long, as the Spartans closed out a 2-0 win over Maryland in tough weather conditions.

“I just didn’t think we played well or quick or with enough aggression to match what they brought,” Maryland head coach Ray Leone said. “So that was my overall take.”

Michigan State kept possession on Maryland’s side of the field for the majority of the first 10 minutes and earned the game’s first real scoring opportunity in the 10th. Cook received a through ball entering the Terps’ 18-yard box, but her shot scooted past the diving goalkeeper Madeline Smith and to the right of the net for a goal kick.

Maryland immediately responded with the game’s first corner kick in the 11th minute, but never got the ball towards the net.

The Terps’ defense held steady for a while, but the Spartans’ ability to maintain the ball in Maryland territory would eventually pay dividends.

Working on defender Alexis Hogarth in the 19th minute, defender Zivana Labovic was already inside the 18-yard box ready to generate something dangerous. Labovic flung a cross towards the net, and Smith dove, getting a piece of the cross. However, the ball bounced right to Cook, who beat Hicks to the ball. Smith quickly got off the ground from her dive, but it was too late. Cook chipped the ball into the back of the net from six yards out to put the Spartans in front, 1-0.

Just five minutes after Cook’s first goal, defender Malikae Dayes made a great sliding play to potentially stop a second goal, leading to a corner kick. The Spartans earned a second corner kick after the first, but Smith made a play on each to prevent any ensuing threats.

Once Cook got going early on, the Terps could only hope to contain her. Her second goal in the 29th minute emphatically put Michigan State up two.

The Spartans continued to pounce, putting up a total of 11 shots and five shots on goal in the first half. Maryland had chances with forward Mikayla Dayes’ off-target header in the 34th minute and forward Catherine DeRosa’s deep free kick in the 41st, but Michigan State was able to hold the Terps in the first 45 minutes. The Spartans led 2-0 at halftime and were outshooting the Terps, 11-5.

By the start of the second half, the rain was really starting to come down, making it no easier on the Terps’ potential comeback. As per usual, Leone made the goalkeeper change as Liz Brucia came in for the second half.

“I mean, it was [a factor], to me, I’m sorry, but you got to get used to that within five or 10 minutes and that’s it,” Leone said of the weather. “You know we’ve all played on enough fields like that, that you just get used to it.”

Hicks threaded a beautiful deep pass past the Michigan State defense to midfielder Loren Sefcik just under four minutes into the frame. Sefcik entered the 18-yard box and tried to fling the ball past goalkeeper Lauren Kozal, but her sliding attempt squandered any peril to Michigan State’s two-goal lead.

Michigan State’s advantage would have been extended to three in the 55th minute if it was not for Brucia. DeBeau launched one from distance, but it dinged off the right corner of the crossbar over a diving Brucia. Right there for the rebound was Cook, and surely, she would have the hat trick. Cook settled the ball and flared one from just a few yards out, but Brucia made a point-blank save to keep the deficit at two.

In the 63rd minute, the Spartans earned two consecutive corner kicks. Cook got a head-on both of them, using her athleticism to jump over everyone. Her first header was blocked on a great defensive play by DeRosa, while her second was eventually secured by Brucia.

Brucia added another quality diving save with about 14 minutes to play, keeping the Terps in it. Following the save, forward Emily McNesby earned Maryland a corner in the 78th minute, but nothing resulted from it.

An impressive Spartans’ victory was final as the clock diminished to three zeroes, and the 2021 Terps would only have one game left to play.

Three things to know

1. Ava Cook is a superstar. Michigan State head coach Jeff Hosler came to Michigan State this season following a seven-year run of three Division II national championships at Grand Valley State. With him, he brought Cook to East Lansing. Without a doubt, she was the best player on the field Thursday — recording a total of seven shots — and has proved herself among the Big Ten’s best. Her two goals extended her team-leading mark to seven while clinching a Big Ten Tournament spot, per the Big Ten Network broadcast.

“She’s a special player,” Leone said of Cook. “You know, very athletic, very smart. You got to be accounting on her all the time.”

2. Maryland did not give itself enough chances. Again without forward Kori Locksley, the Terps’ offensive attack was shorthanded. Maryland was having problems completing plays and making crisp final passes, as Leone has referenced all season long. Though it showed a lot of gumption, Maryland only registered nine shots and four shots on goal.

“Yes, and it’s hard to understand,” Leone said on the final passes being the issue. “They’re doing skill stuff all the way except for the final 30 yards. So they just get so excited, and, you know, miss by five yards instead of three feet, and then it ends up being nothing and that’s what’s disappointing tonight.”

3. Brucia played a great second half for the Terps. All season long, the goalkeepers have been a constant positive for Maryland. Even in games where the margin was not close, the Terps’ goalkeeping duo kept it closer than it could be. Brucia made three saves and did not allow a goal in her half of playing time, allowing the Terps to have a fighter’s chance in the second.

“She was fantastic,” Leone said of Brucia. “She’ll definitely start the final game and play the whole game against Michigan. She was really, really good tonight.”