The Maryland women’s soccer team’s mistakes had been piling up all day. Sloppy play, missed passes and an inability to create anything on the offensive end added up to a frustrating match for the Terps. Northwestern’s domination was evident, and the only thing missing was a Wildcat goal.
At the 58-minute mark, a Northwestern cross found the left foot of midfielder Josie Aulicino, who rocketed a shot towards the goal. Northwestern forward Olivia Stone, standing directly in front of the goal, tipped the ball forward, sliding it past Maryland goalie Kennedy Tolson and into the back of the net.
Just like that, Northwestern’s strong efforts were realized, and the team was rewarded with a 1-0 lead. The score held at the final whistle, dropping Maryland to 0-2-1 this season.
“I thought we played very well in possession, defended much better, and it was a really good performance,” head coach Ray Leone said. “I mean we got to get on the finishing end, and that’s going to help us out immensely. But it was really the first game we felt [like we did everything necessary] to be successful.”
Northwestern’s edge wasn’t as evident at the beginning of the game. The first 20 minutes were a gritty affair. Crosses and through-balls missed their mark on both sides of the field, and the offenses stagnated, with the teams combining for only two shots.
Northwestern had an early affinity for the right sideline; Stone and midfielder Kylie Fisher put together a couple of good chances that began on the right, including a dangerous cross that Stone headed into the waiting hands of Kennedy Tolson. But Maryland didn’t allow those opportunities to turn into points.
Northwestern continued to control the pace of the game by methodically moving between attacking and defending. The Wildcats used a combination of speed and quick passes, combined with staunch defensive play, to stifle the Terps’ offense and create counterattack opportunities.
In response, Tolson began to rack up saves, garnering three saves on eight shots faced in the first half. Tolson’s play in goal was rewarded with a second half start from Leone, who had previously split the time in goal between Tolson and sophomore Nicole Kwoczka.
“Our goalkeepers are all very good, you could choose any one of them,” Leone said. “Kennedy did very well for herself, made a couple of really good saves that were hit well and quick and she got down and made some really good saves.”
Maryland forward Mikayla Dayes went down with an apparent knee injury near the end of the first half. After a quick talk with Leone, Dayes decided to stay in the game, a decision that nearly changed the entire script of the game only minutes later when a miscommunication off a goal kick from Wildcats goalie Mackenzie Wood allowed Dayes to gain control of the ball with an open field in front of her.
Through on goal with Northwestern defender Danika Austin trailing her, Dayes managed to get off a hurried shot attempt. Austin dove in front of the ball, barely managing to deflect it off her boot and out of bounds. The Terps failed to gain a real offensive chance on the subsequent corner kick, and the game rambled on, with the score remaining 0-0.
Following the Northwestern goal, the two squads resumed a more balanced, back-and-forth style of play. The dynamic duo of Poarch and Dayes continued to search for momentum, but the Wildcats’ back line stood like the Great Wall of Westeros: impenetrable. Any time the Terps got a chance going, the ball seemed to instantly get poked out and cleared.
A poor day got worse at the 70-minute mark when Maryland midfielder Anissa Mose hit the ground and didn’t come back up. Sitting with her knees in the air, the trainer came out, and a lengthy break ensued. Mose was eventually escorted off the field. Mose would return for the last five minutes of the game.
After the loss of Mose, Maryland got two quick set piece opportunities. The first opportunity, a deep free kick from Adalee Broadbent off a Northwestern hand ball, found Alyssa Poarch directly in front of the goal. Poarch’s shot was barely deflected by a Northwestern defender, resulting in a free kick.
Potentially the best Maryland chance of the day came off the free kick. Maryland forward Keyera Wynn rose above the competition and got a good header off, but even that wasn’t enough to get past Mackenzie Wood, resulting in Wood’s second save of the day.
As desperation set in, Maryland moved their entire team past the midfield line on every offensive chance. The last five minutes were sloppy and filled with mistakes for the Terps. Leone could be heard screaming on the sideline as the wheels came off for Maryland. The Terps were barely able to get past the midfield line in the last two minutes.
The one final chance the Terps got came from forward Zora Jackson. Sliding to the ground while powering the ball forward, Jackson’s shot flew over the crossbar and harmlessly hit the mesh behind the goal.
As the Northwestern fight song played, a defeated Terps team exited the field, having just suffered a complete domination in all facets of the game.
Three things to know
1. Mikayla Dayes is carrying the offense. Maryland’s offense contains many talented players, but none of them compare to Dayes. Featured on nearly every Maryland chance, Dayes ended the game with two shots (none on goal).
Alyssa Poarch, the second half of Maryland’s starring offensive duo last season, looked slow in her return from injury. Poarch will surely shake off the rust as time goes on, but right now, it’s Dayes by a mile.
“Mikayla’s obviously a force to be reckoned with,” Leone said. “It helps to have Alyssa up to kind of free [Dayes] up a little up, so hopefully that partnership will keep developing.”
2. Maryland woke up in the second half. Whatever Ray Leone said in the locker room at halftime must have worked. The Terps’ offense looked miles better to begin the second half. While the Terps weren’t able to find the back of the net in the opening minutes of the half, they were able to get multiple good offensive chances and looked rejuvenated on both sides of the field. Alyssa Poarch in particular looked markedly better, taking two shots before the 50 minute mark.
3. Maryland has to clean up the sloppy play. The Terps were booked for 11 fouls on Sunday, and as a result, the Wildcats took seven corner kicks. A couple of the Maryland fouls could be attributed to frustration, but for the most part the Terps were just simply sloppy. If Maryland wants to compete in one of the most competitive leagues in the nation, they cannot be giving up chance after chance to their opponents. Eventually, those mistakes will lead to a goal, as they did against Northwestern.