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No. 20 Maryland men’s soccer ties Liberty, 1-1

William Kulvik scored the only goal for the Terps.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Down 1-0 halfway through the first half, No. 20 Maryland men’s soccer struggled to put the ball in the net, despite firing off five shots.

When it seemed like there was a brick wall in front of the goal, redshirt sophomore midfielder Joshua Bolma entered the game after getting injured in the first minute. Bolma ignited the offense as they lived in Liberty’s box.

After rattling off consecutive shots on goal, sophomore defender William Kulvik came through in the 31st minute. Liberty sophomore goalkeeper Blake Franzen deflected Copetti’s shot right to Kulvik, who slipped it into the bottom-right corner.

Neither team was able to produce another goal in the remaining 59 minutes, resulting in a 1-1 tie against Liberty on Sunday night in College Park.

“I’m actually very disappointed with the result because we deserve better. We got numerous high-quality chances, unfortunately [we] could not finish them today,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “I don’t like tying. That’s the bottom line.”

Cirovski made two changes to the starting lineup from the first game, starting redshirt sophomore Joe Suchecki and junior goalkeeper Jamie Lowell.

Sunday’s match got off to a controversial start when Bolma went down after getting head-butted by Liberty sophomore defender Skyler Stricker.

Bolma laid on the midfield line for what seemed like hours as all of Ludwig Field held its collective breath. Maryland’s offensive engine was able to jog off the field and into the medical tent as The Crew — the Terps’ supporters group — let out a massive sigh of relief.

The Terps’ offense rallied around Bolma’s injury early, delivering shot after shot. In the 13th minute, Kulvik lifted a shot 20 feet into the air, which bounced off the crossbar. Maryland collected the missed shot and senior forward Hunter George fired another one right back at the Flames. As the ball curved towards the right goal post, Franzen laid out, deflecting the ball out of play.

When the Flames finally took possession of the ball, they pulled through. Liberty freshman defender Bryce Swinehart parked himself on the edge of the goal area and tapped the first goal of the game right past Lowell, as there seemed to be some miscommunication on Maryland’s end.

The Terps continued to dictate the pace of play but could not get any shots to fall. After emerging from the medical tent moments prior, Bolma entered the game in the 27th minute as the crowd rose to its feet.

With its best player back on the field, Maryland was reenergized and ready to dominate. George’s second shot on goal was saved, but just four minutes later Kulvik knotted the game at one.

Franzen was able to record his third save of the half but paid the price of the Terps’ relentless offense. Kulvik stood right in front of the goal as he sent Franzen’s deflection right back at him.

Maryland produced a few highlight plays, including back-to-back nutmegs by senior midfielder Malcolm Johnston, in the final 15 minutes of the first half, but it was relatively uneventful as each team retooled for the second half.

While the Terps’ defense remained stout, their offense came out slow to begin the final 45 minutes. Junior forward Stephan Copetti was the only player on either team to attempt a shot in the first 13 minutes.

However, things started to heat up in the 59th minute as Maryland had the Flames pressed against their goal line. George collected his third shot on goal as Liberty’s defenders made a team save and then multiple heads smacked into a corner kick that sailed across the box.

In the 69th minute, Lowell had to pull out his best superman impression as he stretched across the goal line, snatching the ball out of the air and preventing the go-ahead goal.

With shots coming few and far between, each break away brought the crowd to its feet with under 15 minutes remaining. Although it didn't mount to anything as the game ended in a tie and Maryland moved to 1-0-1 through two games.

Three things to know

1. Jamie Lowell protected the goal as Niklas Neumann watched from the bench. Coming into the 2022 season, Cirovski was met with a difficult decision — start Lowell who had the job before a season ending injury last year, or start senior Niklas Neumann fresh off an All-Big Ten second team selection. Cirovski chose both. Neumann got the start against No. 9 New Hampshire and didn’t see much action as the Wildcats had just one shot on goal, while Lowell started against Liberty, racking up one save. While it is unclear who will win the starting spot by midseason, the Terps have been successful with both.

“Nik is our starting keeper. Jamie is also a starter in my opinion,” Cirovski said. “We’re very confident in his abilities.”

2. The Terps could not convert on countless opportunities. Despite each team scoring just one goal, Maryland destroyed Liberty in time of possession. The Terps put up a whopping 16 shots, six of which were on goal, compared to Liberty’s two shots, each of which were on goal. While Maryland certainly looked like the better team, it cannot continue to waste opportunities if it wants to make its 22nd straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

“We got to work on that. We got to finish off our chances. We got to score more goals,” junior defender Alex Nitzl said.

3. Bolma continues to be Maryland’s offensive catalyst. During the 26 minutes that Bolma was on the bench, the Terps were able to push the ball down the field but failed to get high-quality looks. It is no secret that Bolma is Maryland’s best player, but this young offensive core looked lost without him. Although the front line will continue to improve, they need to be prepared to step up if Bolma were to ever go down again.

“Josh brings a lot of dynamic qualities that we love to see. Obviously it’s tough when he gets a little hit in the head and is out for the next 20 to 30 minutes,” senior defender Chris Rindov said. “Obviously you never want him to be off the field, but we just got to learn that even if he’s not on the field we still have the guys that can create the chances.”