No. 1-seed Maryland men’s soccer took care of business on Friday night, upending No. 8-seed Northwestern to advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
This match had a little more meaning than most as Northwestern got the best of the Terps last year in the conference tournament. In 2021, neither team scored in the first 110 minutes of play and then the Wildcats emerged victorious, 3-2, in a penalty shootout.
The Terps got the best of Northwestern this time around, though, as freshman forward Colin Griffith scored the lone goal of the game in the 76th minute.
Maryland will be coming off four days of rest before taking on Indiana on Wednesday. The match will begin at 8 p.m. and be streamed on the Big Ten Network.
What happened last time
The Terps squared off against Indiana just over a week ago in what was the most important game of the season.
Both teams had a shot at the Big Ten regular-season championship after Ohio State lost. Whichever team won would walk away with the title and the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, and Maryland would do so if the match resulted in a draw.
Indiana took control early. Senior goalkeeper Niklas Neumann swatted away the Hoosiers’ first shot on goal, but could not do the same in the 25th minute when redshirt senior forward Ryan Wittenbrink converted on a free kick.
The Terps could not break through in the first half as Indiana junior goalkeeper JT Harms picked up two saves in the final six minutes.
The second half was a back-and-forth battle as neither team was able to produce ideal opportunities.
With under five minutes remaining, redshirt sophomore forward Joshua Bolma saw junior forward Stefan Copetti trickle into the box and delivered a cross from 20 yards out. Bolma’s pass tailed right to Copetti, who headed the ball over Harms and into the net.
Copetti’s late-game heroics were enough to draw Indiana and win the Big Ten regular-season title for Maryland.
What has happened since
Not much has happened since the last time these two teams met, as each team played one Big Ten Tournament game.
Maryland squared off against the Wildcats and was seeking revenge. However, after tying Northwestern in the regular season, the Terps knew they had their work cut out for them.
“In Northwestern, we went down there [and] I don’t think we took them as seriously as we did today,” Griffith said after Friday’s match.
Maryland got off to a slow start as the Wildcats controlled the ball and forced Neumann to make multiple impressive saves.
As the half progressed, the Terps began to find their rhythm. Maryland recorded its first shot of the game in the 24th minute and continued to pressure the Wildcats from then on out.
The Terps finished the night with 13 shot attempts, eight on target, and held Northwestern to zero shot attempts in the second half.
Griffith’s goal was the true difference maker, though, as Maryland walked away with a 1-0 victory.
Indiana’s first-round opponent was Penn State, a team that struggled toward the tail end of the season.
The Hoosiers dominated the majority of the first half, and it paid off in the 36th minute when Wittenbrink nailed a corner kick into the bottom right corner of the net.
Penn State outshot Indiana, 7-0, in the second half, but all of the Nittany Lions shots were off target, resulting in a 1-0 win for the Hoosiers.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland stop Wittenbrink? Wittenbrink has been on an absolute tear as of late. He was the Hoosiers’ lone goal scorer in each of the last two matches and has eight goals on the season. Wittenbrink also leads the Big Ten in game-winning goals (4), elevating his level of play when it matters most. Maryland’s defense has played well recently, but Wittenbrink is a different animal.
2. Will Griffith’s minutes increase? Griffith’s playing time has varied throughout this season. He started three consecutive games in September before returning to the bench where he saw limited action when Big Ten play ramped up. However, Griffith’s production and playing time has increased recently, resulting in his game-winning goal against Northwestern. With his confidence rising and performance improving, Griffith should continue to be a primary piece off the bench.
“He’s starting to understand that he went through a little bit of a midseason lull, but he’s bounced back and he looks terrific,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “So, I’m sure you’ll see him on the field in the future.”
3. Can Maryland finally defeat the Hoosiers? The Terps have faced Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament on three separate occasions since 2018. Each of them have not gone in Maryland’s favor, as 2018 ended in a penalty shootout loss, 2019 in a 1-0 loss and 2020-21 in a 2-0 loss. The Terps have not had much postseason success against Indiana, so it will be interesting to see how Cirovski approaches this match.
“I think energy is going to be the most important thing,” redshirt senior defender Nick Richardson said. “We know they’re gonna come out really strong. So, the intensity within our team has to be incredible.”