Maryland women’s soccer head coach Ray Leone has placed an emphasis on the defense needing to play better, but his team struggled to prevent a lethal Penn State offense.
The Terps tied the game at one apiece in the 19th minute, but could only hold its lead for so long. Shortly after, Penn State had a response of its own in the 28th minute.
Penn State was outplaying the Terps and was not satisfied with the current tie. Midfielder Cori Dyke rifled one from the top of the box, and goalkeeper Liz Brucia made a sensational play to dive and make the save. However, the ball could not be kept in front of her and bounced off the post and straight out. Trailing the play was midfielder/forward Sam Coffey, who easily put the ball past a hopeless Brucia and giving the Nittany Lions the lead once again.
Coffey’s goal encapsulated the night, setting the tone for the rest of the match at Jeffrey Field. The Terps fell to 0-4-2 in conference play with the 5-1 loss, while Penn State looked like the national power it has been in past years.
“Just regroup and bring our best to Ludwig,” Leone said. “Penn State was the better team tonight, they were electric in moving the ball and clinical in their finishing. We’ve got to put it behind us, we have no choice.”
While the Terps were missing an offensive threat in Alyssa Poarch, who was recently ruled out for the season, Penn State was missing a star weapon of its own, as well. Midfielder/forward Payton Linnehan — the Nittany Lions’ leading goal-scorer coming into the day with six goals — has not played since Sept. 19.
Midfielder Ally Schlegel had a golden chance to put Penn State up one early in the seventh minute, but her shot on an open net curved right of the post, smashing the outside of the netting.
The Nittany Lions had another sequence around 12 minutes in that could have resulted in a score, but midfielder/forward Rachel Wasserman and midfielder Olivia Damico’s shots were both blocked as the ball pinged around the 18-yard box.
Maryland needed to hold its breath in the 16th minute as time stopped and defender Malikae Dayes was helped off the field, but fortunately she came back in the second half.
“The thing that hurt us the most is Malikae had to come out too early in the half,” Leone said. “Because we were excited what we had in front of our backline, and it only lasted like 15 minutes, so Coffey was gonna have her way without [Malikae] on the field, and she did.”
In the 19th minute, the Nittany Lions were buzzing. They had a 6-0 shot advantage and two corner kicks, but more importantly, were keeping the ball away from the Terps. Their efforts soon paid dividends.
Penn State was moving the ball beautifully, and it all cumulated to a goal just under 20 minutes in. Schlegel, who was playing a great game, dropped a dime to her left. Right there, from around the left corner of the box, was Coffey. This spring’s Big Ten Midfielder of the Year launched one, burying it in the right corner of the net to give Penn State a 1-0 lead.
However, the Terps orchestrated an answer immediately.
Just 36 seconds after Coffey’s goal, Penn State was passing the ball around in its own territory. A persistent Mikayla Dayes refused to sit back and let that happen. The forward charged up and stole the ball away from defender Mieke Schiemann, leading to a clear path to the goal. All alone, Dayes accelerated and fired one with her right foot the bottom left of the net to even the game.
Penn State responded with Coffey’s second goal to put it in front by one, and it would never look back.
The Nittany Lions’ lead would double in the 40th minute, taking advantage of a Maryland defensive breakdown. Midfielder/forward Jordan Canniff squeaked a nifty pass between the Maryland defense, and Coffey streaked into the middle of the box. Behind the defense, Coffey only had Brucia to beat, and easily put it in the left of the goal from close range. Brucia was clearly frustrated as Penn State a 3-1 lead.
Getting dominated, the Terps finally earned their first corner kick in the 41st minute. Midfielder Catherine DeRosa’s service fell short of the near post, and Penn State held Maryland without a shot on the sequence.
Dyke hit the right post in the 44th minute, but the half thankfully came to an end for Maryland. Penn State was leading 3-1 on the scoreboard and held an 11-2 shot advantage.
The second half started where the first half ended for Penn State, as it would extend its lead just minutes in. Coffey continued her special night, pounding a through ball past the Maryland defense in the 48th minute. Wasserman was right there for the reception and took a couple of touches before chipping it past Brucia to give Penn State a 4-1 lead.
Penn State would not stop there, putting in yet another goal in the 53rd minute. Schlegel redeemed her early miss, heading the ball past goalkeeper Madeline Smith — who came in for the second half — to make it 5-1 Nittany Lions.
Forward Kori Locksley forced goalkeeper Morgan Messner to make a save in the 59th minute, but that remained Maryland’s only shot of the half, and third shot of the game, with just over 20 minutes to play.
“The speed of play wasn’t acceptable,” Leone said. “It was something we were coaching in practices, saying they have to move quickly or they’re gonna get it, and we just didn’t do it enough.”
A hard foul by Schiemann led to a yellow card and a dangerous free-kick for the Terps in the 69th minute. Malikae Dayes had a look from distance, but her blast dribbled right off the net.
Ultimately, Maryland could never get any true scoring chances following Mikayla Dayes’ goal, and it was outshot 18-5 over the course of the game.
Three things to know
1. Penn State produced an offensive explosion in the first half. The Terps looked to avoid a defensive letdown Friday after allowing 21 shots and 14 corner kicks against Illinois just five days prior. Unfortunately for Maryland, it could not do that in the first half. Malikae Dayes only played 16 minutes in the half before coming back for the second, but her brief absence was felt. Out of Penn State’s 11 shots, five were on goal. It is hard to have a fighting chance allowing that many opportunities.
2. Sam Coffey’s performance is the story of this one. Heading into Friday, Maryland knew it would have its hands full with Coffey. She has had an illustrious career, earning First Team All-Big Ten honors in addition to her aforementioned recognition by the conference. Before arriving at Penn State, Coffey was an All-American at Boston College. She made magic happen tonight, recording a first-half hat trick on only four shots in the frame.
“What’s interesting about this COVID year is basically, you’re playing against a professional player,” Leone said. “...When you’re a professional playing against college, [that’s] a big deal. So basically, she’s already been drafted in the first round. So that’s what we were playing against, and it was an honor to play it. I enjoyed the competition and the level of the play.”
3. The Nittany Lions were a different animal tonight. Despite its slow start in Big Ten play, Penn State is still Penn State, as Leone referenced on Tuesday’s media call. The program is only six years removed from a national title and was voted to finish first in the conference this season. The Nittany Lions snapped out of their slump tonight, pounding the Terps. The programs are on different levels, and nothing is wrong with that. Maryland needs to put this defeat behind them and hope for a bounce-back with two home games next weekend.
“Get our health back,” Leone said on the focus heading forward. “So the sacrifice of playing, you know, so early, playing Friday here at Penn State. We will get it on the back end because we’ve got so much time now. The longest stretch that we’ve had between games since I don’t know when. So, we’ll get healthy, and we’ll bring our best on Thursday night.”