Exactly two years since its last Big Ten victory, Maryland women’s soccer would have to withstand an unforgiving Michigan offensive attack to get a result.
With the game tied at one apiece, Michigan would finish the job just 30 seconds into overtime. Midfielder Nicki Hernandez, racing down the left side of Maryland territory, received a perfect pass from forward Sammi Woods. Hernandez gathered possession and took two dribbles before launching the ball from outside the 18-yard box. Her shot was an absolute beauty, floating over the leaping goalkeeper Liz Brucia and into the back of the net.
Though Brucia put forth a special performance in the net, Michigan overpowered Maryland, outshooting it 28-11 en route to a 2-1 overtime victory.
“Never, never quit, and it just really showed today,” Leone said on what he would remember from this team. “I mean, there was tears of being at the end, but also tears of some sort of satisfaction of performing against a team that quite frankly has handed it to us every single time we’ve played them.”
Maryland came out juiced up to start this one, keeping the ball deep in the early going. Forward Emily McNesby nearly put in the game’s first goal off a cross from forward Kori Locksley — back in the lineup following a two-game absence — but her shot was blocked, resulting in an unsuccessful corner kick.
Michigan responded with its first scoring chance in the ninth minute off its first corner kick. Defender Sydney Shepherd came in for a header, but her attempt bounced right into the hands of Brucia.
The Wolverines, fighting to secure the No. 3 spot in the Big Ten Tournament with a victory, settled Maryland’s momentum, picking up the game’s next three shots. The Terps responded with the next two shots, including forward Mikayla Dayes’ look on goal.
Though it was an evenly played match for the majority of the first 25 minutes, it did not take long for Michigan to really start to get going.
In the 27th minute, a sensational cross from midfielder Sarah Bridenstine floated from the sideline all the way to the middle of the box, finding Hernandez from about eight yards out. Her header beat a lunging Brucia but rattled the crossbar as Maryland escaped trouble for the time being.
Though Hernandez did not score, the opportunity allowed Michigan to capture momentum and run away with it.
Slicing through the Maryland defense in the 30th minute, defender Alia Martin paved her way to the top of the 18-yard box. From there, Martin dumped it off a wide-open Raleigh Loughman. The midfielder made it look easy, taking one simple touch with her right foot. Her chip attempt spun all the way to the opposite side of the net, leaving Brucia stunned, with no chance to make the save. Loughman’s goal gave Michigan the 1-0 lead and complete control of the match.
Brucia played well in the first half, making four saves, but Michigan would continue to pile on shots and had a one-goal advantage after the frame. In the first 45 minutes, the Wolverines, who lead the Big Ten in shots, had outshot the Terps 14-4.
Just like it started the first half, Maryland came out with energy to begin the second. On its fifth shot of the game, Maryland’s efforts would pay off.
Hovering around the midfield circle, Mikayla Dayes received a pass from McNesby in the 47th minute. Dayes only had one thing on her mind. With possession, the senior sprinted all the way until she was just a few yards from the top of the 18-yard box. After five dribbles, Dayes blasted the ball, placing it perfectly past the diving goalkeeper Hillary Beall and into the bottom right corner of the net. All of the sudden, the game was tied and Maryland was very much alive.
“Beautiful counter attack,” Leone said on the goal. “A team like that who has a decent amount of possession, they’re going to be opened up when they lose it. Just to see the runs up top, and we finally gave [Mikayla] the space, she was right on frame, hit it relaxed and it was a very good goal.”
The Terps continued to play well, earning their third corner kick in the 54th minute after Beall made a big save on midfielder Mia Isaac.
The second half was starting to look a lot like the first though, with Michigan beginning to retake control. Four minutes after Isaac’s chance, the Wolverines nearly hopped back in front, hitting the crossbar yet again. Midfielder Kacey Lawrence’s shot hit the woodwork and bounced right to forward Danielle Wolfe for a rebound header, but her chance went high of the net.
Michigan should have taken the lead in the 64th minute. Falling down in the 18-yard box, forward Sarah Stratigakis fired a cross towards the net. Brucia dove to get a hand on it, but the ball trickled to midfielder Avery Kalitta, who had a chance on an empty net from six yards out. Protecting the goal was defender Alexis Hogarth, who made arguably the defensive play of the season to kick the ball out before it could land in the back of the net.
“It’s just a never quit from these kids,” Leone said. “And [Hogarth] has done, I’d say, saved three or four goals off the line in her career at Maryland, so to do one more in her last game, why not.”
Brucia and the Terps’ defense yet again stood strong in the 74th minute, as midfielder Meredith Haakenson had a point-blank look from inside the six-yard box. Brucia stoned Haakenson, preserving the tie and making her remarkable ninth save of the game. She came up clutch once more in the 79th minute, stopping Woods’ shot and forcing a corner kick that Maryland would turn away.
Despite the Wolverines’ 27 shots in regulation, Maryland survived, forcing its way to its sixth overtime match of the season.
Michigan quickly ended things just seconds into overtime on one of the most dazzling goals one can see in college soccer. The Terps wrapped up the season at 4-9-5 and 0-7-3 in Big Ten play.
Three things to know
1. Michigan’s offense could only be contained for so long in the first half. Maryland was amped to begin the match, controlling it for the first few minutes. However, the Wolverines turned on the jets, firing off 10 of the half’s last 11 shots. If it were not for its five offside calls in the first half — a stat that Michigan leads the Big Ten in by a large margin — Michigan could have extended its lead further. Brucia also did her part limiting the damage in the first half.
2. Liz Brucia was incredible. To put it frankly, Brucia was the only reason the Terps stayed in this game. She was an absolute wall in the net, making 10 saves and constantly having to be on her toes. Brucia undoubtedly earned the right to play the full 90 minutes in this one after frequently splitting games with goalkeeper Madeline Smith, and she did not disappoint.
“It was one for the ages,” Leone said on Brucia’s performance. “She had a quad pull at the end of the first half, I didn't think she was even going to play the second half...she was basically going, ‘you’re gonna have to cut my leg off to not put me back out there.’ So, she was fantastic and I’m just happy for her.”
3. Maryland finished Big Ten play winless. The Terps were rattled with injuries throughout the season, missing its best offensive player in forward Alyssa Poarch for all but four games. Defender Adalee Broadbent and forwards Emily McNesby and Kori Locksley each missed important time, as well. Though Maryland competed today, it was yet another heartbreaker. The Terps fought all season long but ultimately could not notch a Big Ten triumph.
“It sucks losing, but you feel proud that you performed at the highest level, against a really great team,” Leone said.