Holding a 1-0 lead at halftime, No. 8 Maryland men’s soccer was right where it wanted to be.
Michigan State failed to record a single shot in the first half as the Terps continuously swarmed its attackers.
Maryland maintained its aggressive offensive play in the second half, while completing its third shutout of the season. As Michigan State stampeded down the field in the 89th minute, senior goalkeeper Niklas Neumann got in the action as he swatted the Spartans crosser out of the goal area.
Keeping the Spartans out of its net, Maryland used a 13th-minute goal from sophomore defender William Kulvik to defeat the Spartans, 1-0, in College Park on Friday night.
“We challenged our players to have a great response and that was exactly the response we had hoped to get. Defensively, that was our most disciplined full 90 minutes of the year. We held a very good team to zero shots on goal, or zero shots period,” Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said.
The Terps started the match aggressive, as senior forward Hunter George made his way through Michigan State’s defense in just 18 seconds. George took a shot at the edge of the 18-yard box, but it was wide left.
Maryland’s next opportunity came in the eighth minute when the Terps lined up a free kick. Kulvik got under freshman defender Luca Costabile’s pass and headed it toward the net. His shot barley cleared the cross bar as the home crowd let out a collective sigh.
Kulvik gave the fans something to cheer about in the 13th minute, though. Maryland was awarded its first corner kick of the game and made it count. George bounced the corner kick into the goal area where it was touched by multiple players before reaching Kulvik. Only two yards away from the net, Kulvik gathered the ball and booted it into the net for the first goal of the game.
Neither team attempted a shot over the next 24 minutes, but the Terps were on the verge of a 2-0 lead in the 37th minute.
Sophomore midfielder Griffin Dillon received a pass from redshirt sophomore Joshua Bolma and headed it toward Michigan State goalkeeper Owen Finnerty. The keeper’s ultra-quick reflexes kicked in as he was barley able to reach his right hand out to make the stop.
Finnerty’s job was not finished yet, however, as freshman midfielder Albi Ndrenika challenged him under a minute later. Finnerty scooped Ndrenika’s shot up as it marked the end of a Maryland-dominated first half.
The Terps held possession of the ball for the majority of the half as their defense refused to surrender a single shot attempt.
Similar to the first half, Maryland created multiple opportunities to begin the final 45 minutes of play. Redshirt sophomore Joe Suchecki attempted the first shot of the half in the 46th minute before junior forward Stefan Copetti received the ball in the box with Finnerty as the last line of defense.
Copetti stutter-stepped towards the net and blasted the ball at Finnerty. The keeper dropped to his knees and deflected the ball away, extinguishing the Terps best chance of the game.
Things got chippy over the next 15 minutes as six yellow cards were handed out: four to Michigan State and two to Maryland.
Finnerty continued to keep the Terps at bay as he made another impressive save in the 77th minute. Dillon rifled the ball at the top of the net, but Finnerty jumped up and fully extended to make the clutch save.
Despite Finnerty’s efforts, his offense couldn’t find an equalizer and Maryland held on for a 1-0 win.
Three things to know
1. Kulvik’s redemption. Maryland lost its second game of the season on Monday night when High Point scored two second-half goals, one of which was an own goal by Kulvik. With the Terps on a three-game winless streak, Kulvik redeemed himself against Michigan State by scoring the only goal of the game and helping Maryland win a crucial match.
“That’s an amazing feeling. I had to rebound from last game,” Kulvik said.
“I’m delighted that he got the goal and I thought William was a good example of the whole team result today,” Cirovski said. “That was probably William’s best 90 minutes overall of playing very disciplined defensively, and I think if he does that he can become one of the best defenders in this league.”
2. Maryland’s defense was sharp. The Terps held Michigan State shotless throughout the entire game in what was a textbook performance on the defensive end. Maryland kept putting up great defensive performances, but could not get the result it was looking for the past few games. The Terps’ defense is reaching its peak at the perfect time with two regular season games remaining.
“We didn’t take a single play off,” junior defender Alex Nitzl said. “I think some of these games we were in total control of some parts of the game, but we were lacking the consistency over 90 minutes. And today, zero shots on goal, I mean, we didn’t take one single play off and that’s just incredible.”
3. The Terps control their Big Ten destiny. With Maryland taking down Michigan State and Ohio State tying Penn State, the Terps control their Big Ten destiny. Maryland just needs to defeat Indiana on Oct. 30 to secure the Big Ten regular season crown. If the Terps lose to the Hoosiers, however, they could fall as far as fourth in the conference standings.
“We haven’t really won anything in three years. We haven’t been on top in the Big Ten. We haven’t gone far in the NCAA Tournament. So, this is the moment everyone’s been waiting for for years now,” Kulvik said.