Maryland women’s soccer was desperate, down one with two minutes left in the opening game of the season.
A free kick launched by defender Adalee Broadbent from behind the midfield line signified the Terps’ likely last chance. The ball bounced from player to player, finally coming to rest at the feet of senior midfielder Hope Lewandoski.
Looking up, Lewandoski saw her fellow senior, forward Mikayla Dayes. Lewandoski dropped a pass that slid between two Spartan defenders to Dayes, who began to dribble towards the goal. Before Dayes could get an attempt off, Michigan State defender Reagan Cox stepped in. Cox got a foot on the ball and attempted to clear it and likely end the game.
Only the ball didn’t clear. Instead, it deflected off of Dayes’ knee towards the back left corner of the goal. Michigan State goalie Lauren Kozal made her best attempt at the ball, but it didn’t matter.
Dayes’ goal was a cathartic moment of release for a Terrapin team that had spent the majority of the day wasting its offensive opportunities and extended the game to overtime. But Maryland couldn’t find the back of the net again, ending its season opener in a 1-1 draw with Michigan State.
“A tie is a little bit disappointing, just because I feel like we generated a lot of opportunities,” Broadbent said. “It was great to come back from down a goal to make it a tie, but we really were just looking for the win on our first game.”
Both teams opened the match rusty, perhaps a testament to the 400+ day break since the last Big Ten game. The 110 minutes played certainly made up for some of that missed time on the pitch.
The first missed opportunity for Maryland came in the opening minute, when forward Catherine DeRosa received a lightly touched ball from Mikayla Dayes. DeRosa had no Spartan defenders in front of her, but a foot came from behind and tripped the freshman up out of her rhythm. The ball ended up in Kozal’s hands and the Spartans took over.
Energetic midfield play didn’t lead to offense, with only one shot attempt between the teams in the first fifteen minutes. Michigan State, led by sophomore Paige Webber, was successful in the early going by strategically pressing Maryland, but the Spartans’ single shot on goal sailed wide right.
The Spartans’ early aggression was also evident to the referees, who booked Michigan State for four fouls before the 30 minute mark.
Staunch defense from Maryland, led by Kennedy Tolson in goal, kept Michigan State at bay in the middle of the first half. A corner kick from Michigan State’s Danielle Stephan, headed dangerously close to the goal by defender Bria Schrotenboer, was brilliantly stopped by a Tolson dive at the goal line.
As the half wound down, Mikayla Dayes flicked the ball outside to Sydney Staier. A brilliant cross by Staier found the head of freshman Zora Jackson, but the ball flew wide left of the goal, leaving the Terps empty handed yet again.
The Terps headed into the locker room deadlocked at zero goals with the Spartans. The teams combined for seven shot attempts, three shots on goal and only two total saves in an uneventful first half. Staier’s play was a bright spot for the Terps. She played an integral role in nearly every Maryland chance in the half, supplying energy and pace to a Terps offense desperate for more of both.
Early in the second half, a ball poked through two Spartans found the outstretched foot of Mikayla Dayes. Dayes found herself in the open field, trailed by three Michigan State defenders. Dayes, with the defenders gaining ground, hastily made an attempt at a shot, but Kozal made yet another fantastic save.
“I think she did a really good job of defending it,” said Dayes. “I just had to do a better job of trying to get it in.”
After a back-and-forth couple of minutes, Maryland found itself in sudden danger.
Michigan State senior forward Gia Wahlberg, alone in the midfield, supplied a through ball to Webber on the far side of the field. Webber attempted a cross, which was broken up by a stellar dive from Maryland defender Anissa Mose. Mose’s foot bounced the ball out towards a grappling duo of Maryland midfielder Hope Lewandoski and Webber.
As Lewandoski turned and frantically tried to clear the ball, Webber gained posession. Dribbling to the right past a hopeless Lewandoski, and Webber flung her ball off her right foot towards the goal. The shot careened past the outstreched arms of Terrapin goalie Nicole Kwoczka and found the back of the net.
Down by one, Maryland continued to press the Spartans, but errant passes made it difficult for the Terps to get offensive opportunities.
As desperation set in for the Terps, Staier sent a deep kick from the middle of the field towards the goal, but Kozal managed to get a hand on the ball, setting up a corner kick for Maryland. The corner yielded another shot, this time from DeRosa, but it was deflected wide right of the goal. The Terps’ second corner kick of the possession was headed harmlessly out of bounds by Emily McNesby, ending what seemed like their last real offensive chance of the game.
That is, of course, until Dayes stepped in as the team’s Deus Ex Machina.
“It was a really good feeling,” Dayes said of her goal. “I didn’t really expect it to happen.”
The game headed to overtime following Dayes’ goal and the teams stuck to the script in the first 10 minutes, with only a single shot coming from Michigan State and none coming from the Terps.
The second overtime proved as uneventful as the first. Midway through, Lewandoski found Dayes for a great chance on a breakaway, but Kozal stepped up and scooped the ball before Dayes could get a shot off.
A shot launched by Jackson from the left side with 45 seconds left ended up as the last shot on goal from either team. Maryland’s defense held on the final offensive possession from Michigan State, and then the horn sounded, signifying a draw.
“It’s a Big Ten game with no scrimmages whatsoever. So I’m really proud of the team overall,” Leone said.
Three Things to Know
1. Younger players saw a role. Ray Leone made it clear before the game even started that this game was going to be an opportunity for the freshmen when he packed the starting lineup with three youngsters. Freshmen Catherine DeRosa and Milan Pierre-Jerome played over 100 minutes each. DeRosa and Jackson got off two shots each, and although neither scored a goal, the freshmen played admirably in the first game of their career.
“I’m so proud of them,” Broadbent said, “Bootsy and Milan both played amazing, especially for their first game in the Big Ten.” According to Broadbent, Bootsy is the team’s nickname for DeRosa.
2. Leone made a goalkeeping switch. Head coach Ray Leone opted to give both redshirt freshman Kennedy Tolson and sophomore Nicole Kwoczka a half to work with in the season opener. Tolson commanded the first 45 minutes of action, generating two saves off of four Michigan State shots. Kwoczka saw the field starting at halftime, allowing the lone Spartan goal down the stretch of regulation and failing to save any of their five shots.
“It couldn’t have been better for us to have both of them have that experience as young players,” said Leone, “We want them to get experience. You don’t get better as a goalkeeper by not playing.”
3. Mikayla Dayes starts this season in similar fashion. For the second time in a row, Dayes scored the first goal of the season. Back in 2019, the forward struck first in the Terps’ season-opening win against Georgia Southern. She came up big time when Maryland needed it most Saturday, once again scoring the first goal of the season — this time to tie things up late.