One-thousand ninety days. Two full seasons. Almost three years. That’s how long Maryland had to wait to achieve a Big Ten win.
During halftime, head coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer kept it real with her team as they were even at 0-0.
“45 minutes to make history. 45 minutes to dig deep, to give everything for this program,” Nemzer said. “For Maryland pride.”
In the 70th minute, Mikayla Dayes — a sixth-year graduate forward — who has seen all the ups and downs this program has faced, took a high cross from junior midfielder Juliana Lynch and headed the ball into the top corner of the net.
Dayes’ header was the difference in College Park Friday night, as the Terps held off Michigan for a 1-0 victory in their Big Ten opener, the first conference win the program has had since Oct. 24, 2019.
When Maryland took on a great offense in Wake Forest last Thursday, head coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer outlined a game plan of sitting back in an ultra-defensive formation. That strategy resulted in a 1-0 loss.
“I challenged them this week. We worked on the details and the habits in the final third,” Nemzer added.
Tonight, against a Michigan team that had scored the third-most goals in the nation through seven games, the Terps learned from the defeat against the Demon Deacons. They attacked the Wolverines early and put the pressure on from the onset.
It was nearly an instant impact from Maryland, with a set play in the opening minute leading to junior midfielder Catherine DeRosa having a prime opportunity inside the 18-yard box. The captain’s shot was straight at Michigan graduate goalie Izzy Nino, though.
While not converting, the chance gave the Terps and the home fans great energy.
While Maryland played better for the opening ten minutes, Michigan’s speed became a factor as the game evened out.
The Wolverines finished the half with a 4-1 advantage in shots on goal, and came inches from taking the lead in the 22nd minute.
A seemingly harmless cross from the right corner flag curled its way toward goal and found the far-side post past senior goalkeeper Madeline Smith before deflecting out of play.
In the 26th minute, junior forward Sammi Woods — who is one of the most prolific goal scorers in the nation with seven tallies — sped past the Maryland defense to be in on goal. But, graduate defender Malikae Dayes made a fabulous recovery to tackle Woods, clearing the ball from danger.
In what became an extremely tight-fought game, both teams struggled to generate much in the chances department, but the Wolverines established themselves.
Maryland was strong at the back, and held onto a good amount of possession, frustrating Michigan.
Ending the half at 0-0, Maryland and Michigan were in the midst of an extremely tightly-contested battle, with both showing their quality and tenacity.
Just like Maryland began the first half with a great chance, Michigan did the same to start the second.
In the opening minute, Senior attacker Danielle Wolf found herself with a free header right in front of goal, but her attempt rang off the post.
Michigan built off that quick chance, keeping the Terps on the heels for much of the rest of the half.
While most of the play stayed in Maryland’s half, the Terps were able to force a turnover and come close on a counterattack. Senior attacker Alina Stahl was able to get off a great shot from the edge of the box, but it was nicely punched away by Nino.
Michigan continued to stay on the front foot, but couldn’t get shots on Smith.
That lack of capitalization would come to hurt the Wolverines, as the Terps built momentum of their own, and converted.
On their fourth shot on goal, in the 70th minute, Maryland stunned the Wolverines — and Ludwig Field became the loudest it’s been all season.
“1,200 fans tonight. It was unbelievable. They definitely gave us that life and energy and all credit to the crowd,” Nemzer said of the Terps faithful.
Junior midfielder Juliana Lynch delivered a high cross toward graduate attacker Mikayla Dayes, whose header looped over the goaltender, giving Maryland a 1-0 lead.
“We’ve grown so much as a team. It means everything,” Dayes said when asked what it meant to be the one to secure the historic win for Maryland
Michigan came right back though, and it looked as if it tied the game. A 76th-minute shot found the back of the net, but was waved off for offsides.
It was a gigantic break for the Terps, and ultimately allowed them to break out the other way, as freshman defender Tahirah Turnage took the ball all the way up the field herself before finding junior defender Zora Jackson.
Jackson, who rarely finds herself in scoring opportunities, missed by a mile, though, keeping the lead at one.
The next 14 minutes were tense for the Terps and their fans at Ludwig Field.
The prolific attack of the Wolverines went into full effect, and they came close on multiple occasions.
The Terps became unbelievably — and dangerously — physical, committing three fouls in the final minutes, including a yellow card given to senior midfielder Mia Isaac.
But Maryland held on, the defense stayed strong, and the Terps sent Michigan packing.
“We spent so much time on defense, and [Nemzer’s] biggest thing is that defense will win championships,” said Isaac, who played nearly all 90 minutes.
The Nemzer era of Maryland women’s soccer began by getting the monkey off the back of a program under new leadership.
“I give all the credit to the players and especially the leadership of our captains. They really put this team together,” Nemzer said.
Three things to know
1. A positive result to begin Big Ten play. Two full seasons had gone by since the Terps achieved a conference win. That changed Friday night. Additionally, in the last two full seasons (2020-21 excluded), the Terps suffered tough losses in their conference openers. Friday night, against the reigning Big Ten champions, the Terps competed and held their own, ultimately securing the win.
2. Mikayla Dayes was the hero. Dayes has spent six years with the program, and it seemed only fitting that the longest-tenured Terp — along wither her sister Malikae — ended a two-year drought of conference victories. Her 70th-minute goal was her first of the season and secured the eventual 1-0 victory.
3. Juliana Lynch came off the bench for the first time this season. The junior midfielder who transferred from West Virginia had started in every game to this point, but was held out of the starting lineup Friday night, coming in off the bench in the 29th minute. It is not believed to be injury-related, and Lynch does lead Maryland in fouls to this point.