With a trip to go to the Big Ten tournament championship game on the line, No. 4 seed Maryland men’s soccer couldn’t afford to fall behind the Big Ten’s best in No. 1 seed Indiana. However, in the opening minutes of the second half, the Hoosiers finally broke through the Terps’ backline.
Sophomore forward Herbert Endeley of Indiana laid the ball off to junior defender Nyk Sessock on the far side of the field in Maryland’s defensive third, who then lofted a beautifully curved cross into the Maryland’s box. The ball sailed through the air and found the feet of Indiana’s leading goal scorer, sophomore forward Victor Bezerra, who muscled home a right footed volley that went top-shelf past freshman goalkeeper Jamie Lowell to give Indiana a 1-0 lead in the semifinals of the tournament.
Maryland couldn’t overcome the Hoosiers’ opening goal and eventually conceded a second tally, despite its high quality chances in the attacking end all evening, en route to an eventual 2-0 loss against Indiana Wednesday evening in Bloomington, Indiana, as the Terps were bounced from the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament.
“First of all, I am incredibly proud of all of our young men tonight and the effort they put out there,” Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski, who watched from the press box, said. “I thought we played a great first half and the effort for the whole 90 minutes was great... I thought our guys fought to the final whistle.”
Maryland was fortunate enough to make it out of the first round of the tournament after taking down Rutgers in penalty kicks back on April 10, but it couldn’t transfer over its recent successes into the next round against Indiana. The Terps were shut out for the third time this season and for the first time since March 3. For Indiana, it was the team’s ninth win in 10 matches and it was the eighth time the Hoosiers have shut out their opponent this season.
The highly-anticipated rivalry between these two Big Ten squads started off with a high-press attack from the Terps, who were trying to score just the third goal against Indiana all season.
The first 10 minutes saw Maryland control most of the possession, but Indiana progressively found its usually strong possession as the first half continued in the early goings and eventually attempted the first shot attempt of the game.
However, neither team was able to produce any dangerous chances until junior forward/midfielder Brayan Padilla began to operate in the Hoosiers’ defensive third for Maryland.
Padilla carried the ball on his left and streaked towards the left side of Indiana’s penalty area in the 20th minute. He quickly fired off a rocket of a shot that made its way toward goal, but the ball smacked the top-left part of the woodwork and the match remained at 0-0.
After striking the post, Maryland’s pressure was relentless as it tried to break through Indiana’s strong defense.
The Terps generated three shots in the first 25 minutes of the match on a team that’s allowing an average of just over seven shots per game to its opponents through a full 90 minute. Coming into the semifinals, Indiana had given up just two goals all season and is featuring the current Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year in sophomore goalkeeper Roman Celentano.
Even though Maryland's efforts in the attacking third were valiant on the Big Ten’s best defense, it wasn’t able to officially put anything on target through the first 45 minutes, despite attempting five shots.
Indiana had its moments and nabbed two shots on goal in the latter parts of the half, but the Terps still looked like the more dominant and aggressive side all the way up to when the referee blew his whistle to signal the break after a scoreless first half.
The second half saw Indiana come out with a fierce amount of pressure on Maryland’s backline. The Hoosiers quickly piled it on the Terps’ defense and generated the first three shot attempts of the half. Bezerra eventually smashed home his ninth goal this season to give Indiana its first lead of the evening.
“He’s [Bezerra] got a really good feel for the game and he’s got a great shot, but he can also beat you off the dribble, he’s a guy that can create his own chances, but he can also get on the other chances, and he’s a set piece specialist,” Cirovski said of Bezerra. “He’s kind of a complete striker.”
Even after his first tally, the sniper had another golden chance moments later and made no mistake. After junior defender Brett St. Martin committed a foul in Maryland’s defensive end in a dangerous area, the Hoosiers and Bezerra were rewarded a free kick just outside the box in the 56th minute. The ball was immediately played to Bezerra, who ripped off a laser on the ground that beat Lowell to the left post, which gave Indiana a strong 2-0 lead. It was the sophomore’s fourth goal of the tournament and the Hoosiers’ fifth goal of the tournament as well.
After seemingly outplaying the Hoosiers in the first 45 minutes, Indiana ran away with the match in the opening 15 minutes of the second half and sucked the air out of the Terps’ momentum. Maryland was forced to play catch-up the rest of the way and registered just two shots on target through 82 minutes.
“We were super fired up going into halftime. I mean, we had them on the ropes going in there,” Matzelevich said. “Shifted all the way through, when we obviously went down two goals we shifted formations and kind of shifted to a more direct style of play.”
The Terps’ Big Ten tournament hopes vanished as the clock quickly dwindled down, as Maryland wasn’t able to register any goals past Indiana’s defense through the full 90 minutes. The Terps eventually had the clock expire on them and Indiana was sent through to the finals of the tournament, where it will play Penn State on Saturday.
“Obviously the result was lacking but I mean, it’s unbelievable. I can’t fault any of the guys, it was really hard fought,” senior forward Eric Matzelevich said of the loss. “It’s always a great game playing Indiana, I mean, they’re a solid opponent always.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland assistant coach Jake Pace acted as the head coach against Indiana. The assistant coach, who is in his third season on the coaching staff, got the go-ahead tonight at the head coaching spot due to Sasho Cirovski collecting a red card against Rutgers in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals against Rutgers. With Pace in and Cirovski out, Maryland had strong play in the first half but was simply outclassed by Indiana in the final 45 minutes. The Terps’ effort was there even though the result wasn’t what they wanted with their head-honcho ruled out.
2. Lowell mustered together a strong outing for the Terps, despite the loss. The freshman goalkeeper, who has been playing in place of the regular starting sophomore goalie Niklas Neumann, made quite the postseason impression in the first round with four saves against Rutgers. He made crucial saves to send the Terps to the semi-finals, and kicked off the semifinals with a few saves. He collected two saves through the first 45 minutes to keep things scoreless. Then in the second half, Lowell made some notable saves, but let in two goals. He ended up facing 11 shots on the evening and saved three of them.
3. Maryland is unable to survive its toughest match of the year. The Terps have played strong opponents this season with the likes of Michigan and Penn State, but Indiana is easily the Big Ten’s best. The Hoosiers had eight wins on the season coming into this season and seven of those victories came as shutouts. The Terps looked like they had the Big Ten’s top team on the ropes in the first half, but it eventually faltered in the final 45 minutes en route to a Big Ten tournament exit.
“I’m one proud coach,” Cirovski said. “Our goal tonight was to outcompete Indiana and I really felt like we did that... there’s no shame in losing to Indiana and I have nothing but good feelings about my young men.”
Indiana proved on its home field that it is one of the most dominant teams in the nation after decisively advancing to the finals of the Big Ten tournament.