After waiting nearly two years to taste victory, Maryland was not content with winning just one game.
Just three minutes into the match, forward Mikayla Dayes had the ball just across midfield ready to make something happen. Dayes would ultimately not be credited with any official stats on the play, but made a dazzling move, slicing between two defenders. Dayes placed the ball perfectly to the feet of forward Emily McNesby as she was striding right inside the 18-yard box. McNesby threaded a perfect cross to forward Kori Locksley, who tapped it in to give the Terps the early 1-0 lead.
Locksley’s goal was ultimately the game-winner, as the Terps played a complete and impressive game yet again to improve to 2-0.
“To start off like this, you couldn’t ask for more,” Maryland women’s soccer head coach Ray Leone said. “So, now we just want to build on it.”
The Terps had to make the short trip of about an hour to Fairfax, Virginia, the scene for Sunday night’s showdown with the Patriots.
George Mason started with possession, playing a bit of keep away from the Terps. That would not stay the case for long, though, as Maryland’s high pressure had the Patriots discombobulated.
It was Locksley’s chip-in goal off a beautiful cross by McNesby to put Maryland in front, 1-0.
Forward Dacheka Kolcum had a chance to even it up for the Patriots about eight minutes in as she made a move towards the top of the penalty box. Her long-distance shot was stopped by a diving Liz Brucia, earning her first save as Maryland’s goalkeeper.
“They were excellent tonight,” Leone said on his defense. “...It’s not about one person. It’s gotta be a unit.”
The Terps had a look to extend their lead in the 14th minute as Dayes beat everyone to the ball deep in Patriots territory. A sparkling save by goalkeeper Louisa Moser resulted in Maryland’s first corner, which was subsequently punched away by Moser again.
Still, the Terps continued to control possession. Forward Alyssa Poarch, one of the stars of Thursday’s game against Temple, made a dazzling cut to get deep into the box with only Moser to beat. While Moser made the save, Poarch was able to stick with the deflection and with all her might kicked it to the net, past multiple Patriot defenders. Even though the ball trickled off the post and out, it was an outstanding move by the star forward.
Maryland got off to a dominant start yet again, but only had one goal to show for it in the first 18 minutes.
Poarch made another jaw-dropping move in the 22nd minute, squeaking past George Mason midfielder Lina Dirnberger and rocketing it square off the crossbar.
As Maryland continued to control the game, the Terps found metal yet again. Dayes’ low shot in the 32nd minute hit the post, marking the third time the Terps hit the crossbar or post in just over a half-hour of play.
If three times were not enough, midfielder Catherine DeRosa’s close shot off of a Locksley cross hit the post in the final minute of the half.
The first 45 minutes expired with Maryland having a 14-3 shot advantage, but only leading 1-0 on the scoreboard.
The second half got off to a slow start, but it was George Mason who had the first chance of the period in the 51st minute. Forward Halla Svansdóttir dribbled on the goal line and chipped off a shot on the net, but the result was an easy catch and save for Brucia.
The first discipline of the game was handed out about two minutes later, as midfielder Grace Hotaling received a yellow card for a tackle on Poarch, who drew a ton of defensive attention throughout the night.
Fifteen minutes into the half, Maryland’s offense was not firing on all cylinders as smoothly as it did in the first half. The Terps only got off one shot in that stretch, but George Mason was still having a hard time generating chances.
After a Locksley foul in the 60th minute, the Patriots had arguably their best set piece of the match. Off a dangerous free-kick, Shannon Lee lofted one in the direction of Brucia, but it ultimately skied over the goal.
Not generating much all half, Maryland was able to earn its second corner kick of the match in the 65th minute. Defender Olivia Hicks rifled a shot from outside the box, but it was blocked by the George Mason defense just a few feet in front of the net.
Starting to gain some of their momentum back, McNesby had a golden chance to extend the Terps’ lead to two. Streaking to the net with only Moser to beat, McNesby took one touch too many in a situation where it appeared she could have had a goal. The play resulted in a corner kick, but Moser denied the Terps once again.
Even though it never relented control of the game, Maryland knew it would need to capitalize at some point and add an insurance goal.
That insurance came in the 73rd minute in the form of a stunning Alyssa Poarch goal. Receiving a pass from DeRosa a few yards in front of the box, Poarch made a swift change of direction, switching to her left foot. Poarch, from outside the 18-yard box, then chipped a dazzling shot over Moser and into the back of the net to make it a 2-0 Maryland lead. Her phenomenal efforts all night finally paid dividends, as the Terps got a much-needed second goal.
“She was electric,” Leone said about Poarch. “I think they were swarming her. The goalkeeper for George Mason was unbelievable, but Alyssa got a hold of a couple today...but she was getting the ball in the pockets and being very dangerous, it was really good for us.”
Around nine minutes later, the post proved to be George Mason’s friend yet again. Dayes had an open shot to try and change Maryland’s lead from two to three, but the post was rattled for a fifth time on the night.
While Maryland’s offense was clinical for most of the night, it was its defense that secured the all-around victory. The Terps held George Mason to only eight shots, four of which were on goal, and more impressively to zero corner kicks.
Three things to know
1. Maryland dominated the first half once again. In two first halves this season, the Terps have fired off a remarkable 23 shots, while their opponents have only registered four. Out of Maryland’s 14 attempts, seven of them winded up on goal and a remarkable four of them hit the post or crossbar. The Terps definitely could have, and should have, had more than one goal to show for in the first frame, but regardless, it was dominant.
“We’ve spent months trying to develop our culture and our mindset and talking about where we wanted to improve,” Leone said. “Starting fast was one of the main ones. So when you go on the road, this is a great sign for us...playing after Thursday night, come out here on the road, and then scoring the first couple of minutes...that was exactly what we needed.”
2. Kori Locksley’s Maryland career is off to a fantastic start. In addition to her goal being the difference-maker in tonight’s match, Locksley has had a positive impact all over the field. In Thursday’s match against Temple, Locksley earned an assist and had two shots on goal. Despite not scoring a goal in the opener, she was arguably the best player on the field that night. Her positive performance carried over early into tonight, as she scored just minutes into the match.
“First of all, everyone loves her,” Leone said about Locksley. “But her experience and composure out there is just so obvious. I mean, it’s like having a professional player on your team, because, you know, four years in the SEC is about as high [of] a level you’re going to get. She’s a very calming influence on our team.”
3. Liz Brucia and the Maryland defense deserve a lot of credit. Dealing with injuries in the mix of a jumbled goalkeeper situation, head coach Ray Leone pivoted to Georgia graduate transfer Liz Brucia as his starting goalie. Despite playing sparingly for the Bulldogs last season, Brucia has risen above and beyond all expectations, recording two clean sheets in her first two Maryland starts. Malikae Dayes and Adalee Broadbent have done a great job in holding down Maryland’s backline.
“She’s very experienced, very calm back there,” Leone said. “We’ve just got to continue to develop the back four relationships with Liz and today a lot of things were happening. Maybe not a million shots on her, but there [were] a lot of decisions to make and she was really spot on.”