Defense is often the best offense, and Maryland women’s soccer graduate defender Christa Waterman proved that in the 12th minute.
Navy, already holding a 1-0 advantage, looked certain to double the early lead. A nicely delivered through ball found senior attacker Caitlin Doran, but Waterman managed to dig in for a last-chance tackle, directing the ball out of play. Waterman’s effort was the play of the game, and the season so far for the Terps.
Maryland women’s soccer’s defense held strong for the game’s remaining 78 minutes, but the Terps were only able to find the back of the net once, drawing at Navy, 1-1, in their second game of the 2022 season.
It took Navy just 67 seconds to go ahead in Thursday’s game, courtesy of a nicely-delivered header from junior midfielder Katie Hermann. The corner kick found its way onto the feet of sophomore forward Amanda Graziano, whose one touch pass found the head of the Midshipmen’s standout midfielder for the opening strike.
When asked why the Terps have not been able to start games with the same intensity they finish, head coach Meg Ryan Nemzer said, “It starts with training. We need to do a better job preparing the players.”
The Terps were able to gather themselves after the quick stunner, playing a more calm game of possession and registering a few chances of their own. Despite the pressure put on, it was the Midshipmen who nearly doubled their lead in the 12th minute.
But Waterman’s incredible last-ditch challenge in front of goal gave the Terps life.
With a glorious chance missed on one end, one arose at the other end.
Graduate forward Kam Fisher plotted the ball into the bottom half of an unoccupied net thanks to a beautiful set up by another graduate forward — Mikalya Dayes — in the 15th minute.
“I just really felt like I just had the feeling [Mikayla’s pass] was gonna go through and then I just placed it [in the] bottom left corner,” Fisher said.
Just a few moments later, senior goalkeeper Madeline Smith came up big for the Terps, reaching her outstretched arms to make a nice grab at the far post on a curling strike from the very dangerous Alexa Riddle — a sophomore forward who was the Patriot League’s Rookie of the Year last season.
A more decisive, higher-pressing Maryland team took the game on its front foot after the goal and began to show itself after the first 20 minutes, turning what looked like trouble into a well-balanced, competitive half.
Even with the game finding its pace in the latter half of the opening 45 minutes, Navy showed why its offense is the best in its conference, taking any time they were given an inch of space and creating an opportunity.
Maryland’s back line was impressive though, especially Waterman, who contributed on at least three clearances within the 18-yard box to steer any and all shots clear of Smith’s direction.
The final few minutes brought upon a new story to the opening half, with the game turning into a physical affair. A fair but intense one-on-one battle saw Malikae Dayes and freshman forward Mimi Abusham fall to the ground, with both getting a nice push on the other before the ref and a flurry of players from both sides ended the scuffle. What did not end was both benches up in arms, with tempers flaring as both sides headed in for the break.
“We’re here and we’re ready to compete, and I think that’s what I’m most happy with. From where they were to where they are now, they are competing,” Nemzer said.
The half ended with a total of 14 fouls and the shots on goal battle favoring the Terps, 3-2.
The second half started with a glorious chance for Maryland, as Mikayla Dayes saw a bad-angle shot ring off the post and bounce out the other side.
The physical play from the first half’s end carried over into the second, with Navy’s Riddle being assessed a yellow card right after the chance.
Maryland seemed poised to receive a penalty kick in the 52nd minute as graduate attacker Alyssa Poarch looked like she was shoved in the back while in on goal, but the referee saw otherwise, sending the ball back with the Mids.
The 60th minute nearly resulted in one of the more fortuitous goals one would ever see, with a harmless cross from Maryland being deflected by a Navy defender just feet wide of the near post.
The 63rd minute saw the Terps first booking of the evening, with junior midfielder Juliana Lynch getting a yellow card following a questionable challenge.
The Terps were able to keep the attack on, with Alyssa Poarch beating two Navy defenders to enter the box, but Lynch saw her uncontested attempt go far and wide of the target.
Maryland had doubled Navy’s second half shot total as the final twenty minutes approached, but it was Navy in the 73rd minute who nearly broke the tie, but an important intervention by Madeline Smith saw her corral the ball just before Navy’s Doran could get a touch.
Navy seemed to resort to a more conservative style of play in the final 10 minutes, giving Maryland plenty of time with the ball at their feet, but clogging the area in and around their box. It’s no surprise that the Midshipmen could suffocate the Terps as they got into dangerous areas, as Navy had not allowed a goal this season until Kam Fisher’s tally.
In spite of this, the Terps had their chances, and Navy was on its heels.
Maryland recorded five shots in the final ten minutes, but was ultimately unable to break the tie.
The Terps finished the game outshooting Navy 18-11, making it the second consecutive game in which they’ve settled for 1-1 draws despite having countless looks.
When asked what’s needed to start converting on these chances, Fisher said, “I think going more game realistic and practice finishing those shots. And practicing so that when we get on here on the field that we can do it in real life.”
Nemzer pleaded for fans to be patient despite the result. “I just want to say thanks to the fans and also just stick with us. We are going to get 1% better, we do believe, and they’re working hard for us,” she said.
With no wins and two draws to begin the season, the Terps will travel to face off against Penn this Sunday afternoon.
Three things to know
- Maryland was able to respond after trailing once again. As was the case against Temple, allowing the opening goal of the game did not deter the Terps from staying on the front foot. Even after conceding in the opening minutes, Maryland was able to recover nicely and generate a few chances of its own, before eventually evening the score in the 15th minute. If the opening games have shown anything, it’s that head coach Meg Ryan Nemzer has a resilient crew at her disposal.
- Christa Waterman was a standout. The Fairleigh Dickinson graduate transfer was outstanding, and a large reason for why the Terps got the result they did. Her early last-chance tackle prevented Navy from hopping out to a 2-0 lead, and she was a brick wall in front of Madeline Smith throughout. Despite having to leave the match early, the standout center back was the player of the match.
- The Terps remain unbeaten despite not recording a win. The Nemzer era continues without a loss, but two ties are not what Maryland probably deserved from the opening two outings. After the first 10 minutes of the game, Maryland established a relentless press and had their chances to net three or more goals. A few posts, a non-penalty call which will be discussed, and shots way off target were the difference for the Terps Thursday night. There are still clear positives, with Maryland competing at a high level and generating the chances to load up the scoresheet.