With the score knotted at zero, Sunday’s match between No. 9 Maryland men’s soccer and No. 13 Ohio State seemed like a next-goal-wins situation. Neither team was successful on the offensive end in the first half as there were a combined eight shots taken, two of which were on target.
After halftime, Maryland entered the second half with a new sense of urgency. Junior defender Alex Nitzl dribbled through the Terps’ side of the field before booting the ball up to redshirt sophomore forward/midfielder Joshua Bolma. He gathered the pass and bolted towards the box without an Ohio State defender in sight.
As Bolma approached the goal area, he dumped the ball off to freshman forward Max Riley. The newcomer collected the pass, swung his leg back and drilled the ball into the bottom left corner of the net.
It was the lone goal of the game that allowed Maryland to take the lead and never relinquish it in a 1-0 win in College Park.
“It’s a great result against a really good Ohio State team. It was a very hard-fought defensive battle today. There wasn’t a lot of chances on both sides,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said.
Ohio State has skyrocketed up the national rankings over the past few weeks and showed why in the early going. The Buckeyes rattled off back-to-back shots in the second minute, the first was blocked and the second was wide right.
Maryland controlled the tempo for the next 10 minutes but were unable to create any shot attempts. Sophomore midfielder Dillion Griffin took the Terps for shot of the day in the 20th minute, however, Ohio State redshirt freshman goalkeeper Max Trejo made the save.
The Buckeyes fired right back with a shot of their own, but junior goalkeeper Jamie Lowell swatted the ball out of the air.
Junior forward Stefan Copetti nearly ended the stalemate in the 30th minute. Just 30 seconds after checking in, Copetti received a beautiful pass from freshman forward Colin Griffith. Copetti loaded up and sent a missile towards the goal. His shot scrapped the right goal post just enough to redirect it and keep the shutout alive.
The final 15 minutes were uneventful as Griffith was the only player to attempt a shot. This was Maryland’s third shot of the half — compared to the Buckeyes five — in what has been one of the most unproductive halves of the season for its offense.
Things got chippy to begin the second half as senior defender Chris Rindov picked up a yellow card after tripping junior midfielder Laurence Wootton. Ohio State was awarded a free kick, but junior midfielder Parker Grinstead sailed it over the net.
Then, Maryland scored the first goal of the game in the 56th minute. Redshirt sophomore Joshua Bolma collected a long pass from junior defender Alex Nitzl and made his way towards the box with no one in front of him. As he got to the edge of the goal area, Bolma dished the ball to freshman forward Max Riley for the finish.
Now playing with a 1-0 lead, the Terps offense loosened up. Only two minutes after the goal, Maryland had another fast break opportunity. Senior midfielder Malcolm Johnston drove towards the box, stopped and then curved a pass towards the goal area. Copetti tracked down the ball and tipped it just over the net.
Ohio State attempted two shots over the next 35 minutes as Maryland’s defense remained flawless in the win.
Three things to know
1. The Terps corrected their defensive woes. Maryland had its worst defensive performance of the season against Penn State on Tuesday, allowing a season-high three goals. Heading into this match, the Terps could not afford to make the same mistakes against a top-15 team. Maryland was nearly perfect on the defensive end against the Buckeyes, allowing just one shot on goal on the way to its first shutout of the season. If the Terps can combine this level of defense with their usually potent offense, there is no limit to what this team can achieve.
“I think we took some of the carelessness and casualness out of our game today on the defensive side. We didn’t gift too many chances today. So, I thought from that standpoint we grew a lot as a team, and I think our team needed this, needed to prove to themselves [that] they can keep a clean sheet,” Cirovski said.
2. Riley plays hero. Maryland has been a high-intensity and fast-paced offense all season, but Ohio State’s defense was locked in. The Buckeye’s came into Sunday’s match with one of the best defense in the nation as they were ranked ninth in shutout percentage (.625), 15th in goals allowed per game (.625) and 25th in save percentage (.808). The Terps only attempted three shots by halftime and a change needed to be made. Riley checked into the game and made the play of the game. The freshman scored the first goal of his career and bailed Maryland out of a poor offensive performance.
“Long time coming. I mean credit to my teammates,” Riley said. “I tried to do my part and put it in the back of the net.”
“Max Riley was our inspiration today,” Cirovski said.
3. The Terps are back on top of the Big Ten. Prior to Sunday’s match, Ohio State was the only undefeated team remaining in the Big Ten. After handing the Buckeyes their first loss of the season, Maryland is is now one step closer to winning the Big Ten regular season title for the first time in four years. Maryland is one of three teams who have not lost in Big Ten play, with the other two being Penn State and Rutgers. The Terps tied Penn State on Tuesday and will take on Rutgers on Oct. 4.
“Coming into the Big Ten we know ever team’s gonna be a challenge and to get one over the Big Ten champs as of right now is huge for us and hopefully we continue that on Friday,” Riley said.