All it took was 10 minutes for Maryland women’s soccer to realize its fate.
The Terps gave up the opening goal to Michigan State in the 10th minute and allowed two more in the opening 20. It was domination from the start; The Spartans registered the game’s first seven shots, four of which were on target.
Michigan State controlled the entire game and made a mockery of the Terps, beating them, 5-0, on Thursday It was the second time in four games Maryland (3-4-5, 0-3-1 Big Ten), still winless in Big Ten play, lost by four or more goals.
Head coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer believed that the wear and tear on the team was a major component in the loss. “I think at this time in the season, we have heavy legs,” she said, “and I think that played a factor tonight on the result.”
It was the one of the most dismal displays of attacking soccer the Terps have showed all season. They were only able to muster three shots, and build-up play had nothing to do with any of them. On the other end, Maryland’s defense was constantly under siege, as the Spartans put up 25 shots — 10 on target.
Goalkeeper Liz Beardsley had her moments, making five saves, but had a costly error as well. The third goal of the game came on a header from defender Zivana Labovic, which was aimed down at the pitch in front of Beardsley, catching Maryland’s keeper off guard.
Freshman defender Kennedy Bell was the only bright spot for the Terps, winning her chances at the back and getting forward a few times. She took two of Maryland’s three shots and came close to scoring her first collegiate goal in the 58th minute, when her attempt cracked off the crossbar.
From the opening kick, Michigan State (8-2-2, 3-0-1) paid no mind to Maryland’s attacking threat. The home team’s tactic was simply to trust its defense and bring numbers forward, beating the Terps in and around the box until the ball went in the net.
Maryland was quickly forced to defend and couldn’t keep possession. Then, after the 10th minute, the floodgates opened up, and the Spartans seized the game quickly.
Midfielder Gabby Mueller darted into the box unmarked and got the ball, calmly finishing with her right foot for the first goal. The next two goals came on corners, as forward Jordyn Wickes headed one home in the 16th minute, and Labovic scored in the 20th.
“We gotta have a little bit more of a swing first mentality right now,” Nemzer said. “... I think that when you are defensive, this is what happens.”
The rest of the first half wasn’t any better, as the Terps were outshot, 10-1, and gave up a whopping seven corners.
“I think if the back line is able to play as one unit of four instead of four individuals, that’s going to help us not allow that to happen,” Maryland defender Katie Coyle said.
A small burst of energy saw Maryland get a few shots in the second half, but the Spartans continued to dominate both in possession and quality of play. Forward M.J. Andrus had her first two attempts blocked in transition, but she finished on the third try to make it 4-0 in the 77th minute. Forward Ranya Senhaji made it a five-goal lead in the 88th minute.
Now having lost three of its last four games, Nemzer’s team is showing shades of last season’s struggles against Big Ten opponents. The coach harkened back yet again to her treating this season’s struggles as moments to learn from.
“To me, it’s not about wins or losses, it’s about the process,” Nemzer said.
Three things to know
1. Worst first-half performance. The Terps have been a very good first-half team this season, giving up just two goals entering Thursday. Against the Spartans, though, Maryland had its worst first-half performance of the season, allowing three goals in the first 20 minutes.
2. Yet to score in a Big Ten game. Maryland has yet to score against a conference opponent four games into Big Ten play. This is the Terps’ longest scoreless streak this season, and their attack, without a single upperclassman, continued to show its inexperience.
3. The Terps’ schedule does not get any easier. Maryland has six games to change the narrative surrounding its season. However, all of its six opponents have a winning record, two of which are nationally ranked.