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Maryland women’s soccer collapses in second half, falls to Illinois, 3-2

The Terps dominated the first 45 minutes but allowed three unanswered goals to begin the second half.

Mackenzie Miles/Maryland Terrapins

In the 55th minute, graduate attacker Mikalya Dayes was in on goal with the Terps already up 1-0. A second goal would have all but sealed the victory, but her low drive was stopped between the legs of Illinois junior goalkeeper Julia Cili.

Just two minutes later, Illinois took advantage of the miss, as junior midfielder Sydney Stephens blasted a long range effort into the back of the net.

And not even 10 minutes later, Illinois took the lead as sophomore defender Ella Karolak found the top corner from in close.

It was a dominant first half from Maryland, but it entirely collapsed in the second. Illinois eventually came away with the 3-1 victory,

“We played into their game plan in the second half and we knew their press was going to come. We forgot to execute our own game plan,” head coach Meg Ryan Nemzer said.

Maryland women’s soccer concluded its six-game home stand, going 2-2-2 to move its record to 2-2-5 overall and 1-1-0 in the Big Ten.

The Terps’ commanding first half began with an instant impact. Just 14 seconds in, junior midfielder Catherine DeRosa found graduate attacker Alyssa Poarch — her fellow captain — for the initial tally.

The goal, close to offsides, stood in Maryland’s favor to give the Terps their quickest goal of the season.

Poarch, who was all over the ball tonight, saw her play to her full potential tonight.

“Tonight was one of those nights where I felt like myself,” she said.

Offsides calls were a major factor in the opening half, with the Illini recording five to Maryland’s two.

Illinois was able to use their speed to gain possession, but the Terps defense clogged the Illinois attack, conceding just one shot on goal from distance in the opening half.

Terps have been strong on the defensive end all season, but the attack has been constantly questioned. The Terps’ offense appeared to be answering those questions early.

While Illinois displayed a high press after Poarch’s opening goal, it was the Terps who continued to find themselves in on goal, with seven shots coming in the opening 45 minutes.

Junior midfielder Sydney Urban had one of those shots; she had a wide-open header from a few feet out in the 21st minute, but the attempt was straight at Cili.

Maryland came close a couple of times thereafter but could not find the right shot on goal.

Graduate forward Mikayla Dayes had another grade-A chance about 15 minutes after Urban, but the offsides flag went up on a close decision.

After a Maryland corner went awry, Illinois nearly came back after the decision to tie things up. The away team found itself on a two-on-one break with just about a minute left in the first half.

Fortunately for Maryland, graduate defender Malikae Dayes prevented a would-be equalizer, getting a slight touch on the attempted through ball that would’ve led to a breakaway.

Despite that chance, the Terps escaped the half with a lead — a deserved advantage — as they dominated in possession with a near 70/30 advantage.

Maryland has been a superb defensive team all season, but that was nowhere to be found in the second half.

“I think we forgot what makes us a great defensive team,” Nemzer said. “At moments we were trying to solve things individually instead of staying together as a unit. This will be a great teaching moment for us going into the rest of Big Ten play.”

The opening half’s positive momentum stalled for a bit when senior midfielder Mia Isaac went down early in the second half following a collision of heads. Thursday night marked Isaac’s second straight start, and she has been a bright spot in the midfield.

Isaac would return later in the half, but her short-lived absence was felt.

Maryland had its chance to double the lead shortly after, as Mikayla Dayes found herself in on goal, but Cili stopped the shot between her legs.

The missed opportunity would prove costly, as Illinois came back on the other end and equalized.

Stephens’ long range attempt in the 57th minute incredibly found its way into the back of the net.

The Illini continued to take advantage of a depleted Terrapin side, adding on two more before the 72nd minute. Karolak gave the Illini a 2-1 lead in the 66th minute with an close-range strike that found the top of the net, and that was followed up just five minutes later when redshirt junior Ashley Prell doubled the lead with a shot into the bottom corner.

When all hope seemed lost, Mikayla Dayes, out of nowhere, sent a cross-crease shot past the outstretched arms of Cili, cutting the deficit to one in the 78th minute.

“We could’ve scored if we had another five minutes. So it’s just unfortunate how it ended,” Poarch added.

The Terps kept pressing in the final 10 minutes, but it was too little, too late, as Maryland fell to 2-2-5 on the season.

Three things to know

1. The Terps were unable to build on a huge victory. After shocking defending conference champions Michigan on Sunday, the Terps looked primed to build on that with a victory tonight. With 45 minutes remaining to improve to 2-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since joining the conference, the Terps stopped playing with the energy they had earlier possessed. Maryland put forth a valiant late comeback effort, with Mikayla Dayes cutting the score to 3-2, but it wasn’t enough.

2. A monumental collapse. Maryland dominated the opening half in just about every aspect and could have been up two or three goals. What transpired in the second half — conceding three unanswered goals in quick succession — is inexcusable for a team whose defense has been its identity all season.

3. A tough task awaits. The Terps head to New Jersey Sunday afternoon to take on No. 4 Rutgers. Rutgers is a national championship contender and is 9-0 on the season.

Maryland has faced two ranked opponents so far this season, drawing Georgetown, 1-1, and falling to Wake Forest, 1-0. It will also be a homecoming for Nemzer, who spent 15 years on the Scarlet Knights’ coaching staff.

“We are going to have to be very good with the details and the habits defensively,” Nemzer said. “...It’s gonna be weird going into the visitors locker room and finding the right bench to sit at.”