The ball softly bounced on the goal’s doorstep in the 88th minute, as midfielder Lauren Wrigley’s deflected shot landed at the feet of forward Lisa McIntyre with a chance to equalize and salvage a draw for the Terps.
But the net didn’t budge, as Florida goalkeeper Alexa Goldberg saved the first attempt on target and McIntyre sent her second shot wide.
The chance was Maryland women’s soccer’s closest of the game, as an otherwise lackluster offensive performance allowed Florida’s first-half goal to be the difference in a 1-0 loss for the Terps (0-1-1).
Maryland head coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer’s squad had more growing pains in its second game of the season, with a lack of offensive creation putting too much pressure on the defense. However, the coach believed the team’s performance improved from game one.
“We always talk about being one percent better. We weren’t one percent better, we were like 30% better compared to our last game,” Nemzer said.
Florida (2-0-0) took a few chances from outside the box early, similar to what American U did against Maryland on Thursday, but only one posed a threat. Freshman forward Megan Hinnenkamp hit a laser with her right foot in the 22nd minute, which required a diving save from Liz Beardsley.
As the first half came to a close, the Terps began to look much more comfortable on the ball, with forward Kelsey Smith finding herself on the front end of some nice runs. But the link-up play lacked chemistry throughout, and Maryland was called offsides three times in the opening 45 minutes.
The Gators struck first with the only goal of the game, finding the back of the net right before the end of the first half. In the 41st minute, freshman Lena Bailey turned around Maryland’s Eden White before sprinting through the defense and crushing a shot past Beardsley at the far post.
Bailey had another chance in the 43rd minute, which sailed past the near post. Then, Gators forward Tatum O’Coyne had a great look with a header right in front of goal in the 44th minute that clipped the crossbar, sending the Terps into halftime lucky to only be down one.
Nemzer still thought the back line did a good job despite the number of chances the Gators had, saying, “The shots that we gave up, I don’t think they were anything too dangerous.”
Much of the second half saw Florida successfully control possession and prevent Maryland’s scoring chances.
After the 80th minute, a sense of urgency swept through the Terps and gave them motivation to find an equalizer. But besides a scuffed shot from midfielder Madison Krakower, Wrigley’s chance was the closest the Terps came to a goal.
“I think we were waiting for that perfect shot versus just getting some quick releases,” Nemzer added.
Three things to know
1. Maryland couldn’t produce the final touch. It’s not all that surprising the Terps have struggled to create offensive with their numerous newcomers, but the connection between the forwards was improved in Sunday’s affair with the Gators.
Unfortunately for Maryland, it struggled to find the right touch in the final third. And because of that, it lost out on numerous opportunities because of errant passes. “I think we’re that final pass away from putting three or four in the back of the net every game,” Terps defender Katie Coyle said.
2. The back line left Beardsley vulnerable. Sunday’s game was the second straight for Maryland in which its opponent had double-digit shots. The Gators forced Beardsley into action early, resulting in three saves from the Terps’ keeper.
What hurt Maryland the most Sunday was the quality of the Gators’ chances. A majority of Florida’s 10 cracks at goal were unmarked by Maryland defenders.
3. A disappointing start to the season. In what seems like déjà vu when compared to last season, the Terps have come out of the gates slow. This year, games against American U and Florida looked probable to end with a positive result.
Nemzer’s squad hopes a return home will help lift spirts. Maryland’s next five games are all either at Ludwig Field or nearby sites, but right now, the Terps’ newly-formed roster looks to be just a tick off.