It came down to the final minute for Maryland women’s soccer against American University, as the Eagles lobbed the ball forward on a corner for one last attacking chance in the 90th minute. But the Terps held strong as the in-swinging corner sailed behind the net.
The Terps’ attacking options were limited throughout the game, only mustering a total of three shots. But despite constant pressure from the Eagles, Maryland’s back line held its own and forced a 0-0 draw in its season opener.
Most of the action came in the second half when American put continued pressure on the Terps, testing goalkeeper Liz Beardsley on multiple occasions. The Eagles’ best looking chance came toward the end of the half when midfielder Avery Klingensmith laced one in transition from outside the box, but the shot took a deflection and sailed just over the top-right corner.
Terps head coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer expressed her confidence in her opponents taking shots from that distance with Beardsley between the sticks, saying, “Anything like 25 to 30 yards, I feel like I have one of the best goalkeepers in the country.”
Maryland’s revamped defense looked strong, highlighted by some key tackles from center back Eden White, a transfer from Santa Clara. She came up with a huge clearance in the final minute when the Eagles were directly in on goal. Freshman defender Kennedy Bell was also impressive at fullback, coming up with a key slide tackle early on.
Fresh faces were aplenty in the Terps’ starting lineup, with eight of their 11 starters making their debuts in a Maryland shirt, including two playing their first collegiate games. As such, the team’s build-up play didn’t click in the first 20 minutes, with Maryland only managing one shot on goal. Defender and captain Caroline Koutsos struggled to link with forwards when sending balls over the top.
The number of new players on the field at the beginning of the game was a first for Nemzer, now in her second year leading the Terps, but she recognizes it as a necessary step in the development of the program. “This is what we spoke about, it is a process, and they have bought into the process,” she said.
Maryland did eventually put together a few scoring opportunities late in the half, like in the 33rd minute when Koutsos slid the ball through to forward Kat Parris, whose touch was too heavy. Another chance came in the 41st minute, when the ball was headed to forward Kelsey Smith in the box. She looked to take a touch and set herself up to score, but lost the ball right as the keeper came out.
The start of the second half remained calm, but after the 60th minute the Eagles started applying more pressure. They tallied three shots on goal in a span of 10 minutes and controlled possession in Maryland’s half. But American was also unable to capitalize on its opportunities — the closest it came to finding the back of the net was when a 63rd-minute shot by forward Leilah Wright whizzed just by the left post.
The Terps were actively looking for a game-winner in the final 10 minutes, with some nifty link-up play leading to a multiple chances and free kicks in the opposition’s half. But as soon as the attackers were on the ball, no one could break through the home team’s back line.
“I thought that we showed really well at moments and I felt we did enough to put one in the back of the net, you know, especially on those set pieces,” Nemzer said, encouraged despite the goalless draw.
“[Defender Katie Coyle] said, ‘Like look, we can’t win this game,’” Beardsley said, recalling a conversation during a water break. “So I was like, ‘Let’s just hold it out. Worst comes to worst we get a tie shutout.’ And so that’s what we did, so a job well done I think.”
Three things to know
1. Kelsey Smith was active. After redshirting her freshman season due to injury, sophomore forward Kelsey Smith looked energetic after coming on as a substitute. She had a dazzling move in the first half when she managed to get past two defenders on the left wing, looking like Maryland’s most dangerous attacker. She remained in the game to start the second half and recorded a shot on goal.
2. The Terps struggled to maintain possession. In the first half, Maryland was clearly working out the kinks of a remodeled roster. The Terps had moments of great play in the second half, but American still dominated possession.
3. Another season-opening draw. Last year, Maryland also started the season with a draw, a common theme for the 2022 squad; the Terps drew in each of their first four games last season. This year’s team will look to turn those draws into wins, with its next chance coming Sunday at Florida.