In the 88th minute in what had been an incredible effort from Maryland women’s soccer, Rutgers junior midfielder Sara Brocious took advantage of a looming ball in the box with Maryland defenders ball-watching. Brocious scored the winning goal, handing the Terps a heartbreaking 1-0 loss in Piscataway, New Jersey, on Sunday afternoon.
For nearly 90 minutes, Maryland competed with a national championship contender, but it wasn’t enough to earn a result. Still, it was an applaudable effort for the Terps against perhaps their toughest opponent yet.
Maryland falls to 2-3-5 on the season with a 1-2 record in the Big Ten.
Head coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer, who spent the past 15 years on Rutgers’ coaching staff, made her game plan clear from the onset.
Prior to today’s contest, she said, “We are going to have to be very good with the details and habits defensively.”
Her players embraced that, holding the Scarlet Knights, one of the nation’s most prolific offenses, to just two shots on goal in the first half — both from distance.
As the game started, Rutgers started to see that this was not the same Maryland team that it defeated 5-2 last season. A more disciplined and defensively sound Terrapin side had come to compete.
Rutgers came out agressively to begin the game, but the Terps backline looked as pesky as it had been all season outside of Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Illinois.
With today’s result, Maryland has conceded one goal or fewer in nine of 10 contests.
The first half was a slow and arguably boring one from a neutral perspective, but for Maryland, it went exactly as planned.
Rutgers failed to see much of anything dangerous, and that was largely due to how physical the Terps played, committing six fouls in the opening 45 minutes — including a yellow card by graduate defender Malikae Dayes.
The No. 4 team in the nation, averaging close to 18 shots on goal a game, failed to register one until the final five minutes of the half.
“I’m happy with the shots we’ve given. If they want to take those shots, I’m okay with that,” Nemzer said at halftime on Big Ten Network.
Despite not generating much themselves, the Terps had succeeded in frustrating the Knights and kept themselves in the game headed into the second half.
Rutgers nearly came out of the locker room and put the ball into the back of the net, but Wegener proved why starting her was the right decision as she stopped a doorstop effort to keep the game level. This was one of her two stops of the afternoon.
That stop slowly saw the Terps gain momentum and — surprisingly — the better of play.
Come the 60th minute, Maryland got consecutive corners, putting the home team on its heels.
The Rutgers superb back line would hold on, with the only real promising shot coming from graduate attacker Alyssa Poarch, whose curling effort found the middle of the net.
That shot on goal would be the Terps lone shot on goal of the half, but their defensive prowess and time in possession was enough to cement this unpredictable draw.
As the play continued to stalemate, tensions began to flare, with fouls after fouls happening.
In the last 10 minutes, junior captain Catherine DeRosa showed the emotions of the team by pushing back at a Rutgers defender, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
By the emotional bout’s end, there were 25 total fouls.
As the game waned down, it looked certain that the Terps would come away with a draw on the road, but Brocious’ late winner took the dream away from the Terps.
Nemzer’s homecoming turned from a potential fairy tale into the most heartbreaking of endings.
The Terps head to Madison, Wisconsin, Thursday night to face off against the Wisconsin Badgers.
Three things to know
1. Emory Wegener started ahead of Maddie Smith. The Georgia transfer shockingly got the nod ahead of senior goalkeeper Maddie Smith Sunday afternoon. Despite only starting once this season, Wegener started due to her “leadership abilities and experience” per Nemzer on the Big Ten Network broadcast. The strategy came so close to working, as Wegener had 89 minutes of clean sheet soccer.
2. Another loss, but maybe a moral victory. A last-minute winner is the most heartbreaking way to lose, and the Terps deserved a point today. On the road, they competed with, and frustrated, a Rutgers side that finished 10-0 in conference play last season, which included a rout of the Terps. Today’s result, though ending in an unfavorable outcome in the loss column, showed that Maryland can compete with the best of the best. There’s nothing for Maryland to hang its head on, as Sunday’s 90 minutes provided a huge opportunity for growth in Big Ten play.
3. The Amanda Schafer show once again. The graduate full back has been the Terps’ best player of recent and was all over today’s game. She took on Rutgers’ dangerous attackers in seemingly every individual battle and came away victorious time after time. Up and down the pitch, she is, has and will continue to be an incredible spark for this team as Big Ten play moves forward.