Going into the match, I thought the key was whether or not Maryland could put a ball in the net against the #1 Virginia Cavaliers. The Terrapins have frequently struggled to score this year, while the home team hadn’t allowed a goal in 568 minutes despite playing North Carolina, Florida State, and Virginia Tech – all top ten teams – in that interval.
So when just over four minutes in Maryland forward Hayley Brock scored a spectacular unassisted goal, looping the ball over a defender and goalkeeper Morgan Stearns from a sharp angle on the right, I thought it was “game on.” In retrospect, though, it seemed like that was the worst thing that could have happened for the visitors. After an initial rush of enthusiasm following the goal, all the drive seemed to fall out of the team.
“We played pretty well in the first ten minutes,” said Maryland head coach Jonathan Morgan. “And then we just got to the point where we wanted to protect the lead. We stopped playing. We stopped moving and working off the ball. We were just content on defending. But there’s another eighty minutes to go in the game, seventy-five minutes, you can’t defend that long.”
Meanwhile, the early goal just seemed to make Virginia mad and eager to level the tally and then some. “If we give up a goal, we all take responsibility for it and know we need to come back and get it back,” said Cavaliers goalkeeper Morgan Stearns. “If you give it up in the first five or ten minutes, you have an entire game left. That means nothing if it’s that early. So for us, if you give it up early, you have to get one back.”
It ended up being a lot more than one. The equalizer came right at the 27:00 mark with Annie Steinlage sending a high ball in from the left that Morgan Brian headed in from outside the right post. Then the skies opened on Maryland. In the 33rd minute, Brian crossed a ball in from the right end line that Danielle Colaprico fired in with one touch from her left foot. In the 39th minute the Washington Spirit Reserves’ Morgan Reuther became the 11th different Cav to score a goal on the season when she got the ball in the box in traffic following a steal and put it in the net. Five minutes later Brian got her second goal, sending a free kick from 24 yards out off Maryland goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands’ hands and into the net.
With the score 4-1, the game was pretty much over at that point, and for the second half both teams emptied their benches. Morgan subbed in goalkeeper Kristene Mumby to start the second half, along with some other changes, and UVA coach Steve Swanson eventually did similarly, taking Stearns out and putting Churchill O’Connell in.
Virginia would score two more goals, both late in the game and both from subs. Amber Fry headed in a far post cross from Brittany Ratcliffe in the 82nd minute, then Mary Morgan headed in a Ratcliffe corner kick in the 88th.
The final stats were as ugly as the score: 24 shots for Virginia to 5 for Maryland, shots on goal 11 to 3, corner kicks 8 to 3.
And while Virginia was clearly the more talented team, the result seemed as much about attitude as ability. Virginia wanted it more and didn’t give up. You can’t say the same about Maryland. Late in the game a loose ball landed in the middle of three Terrapins and one Cavalier. Guess who came away with the ball?
And even with this win Virginia is looking for more. Asked what it was like to be the #1 team in the country, Stearns responded: “I kind of remind myself that we haven’t achieved anything yet that we want to achieve. Yeah, we have had a perfect record, but we haven’t gotten an ACC championship yet, we haven’t had an NCAA championship yet, and that’s what we want to get.”
All I can say is, “Look out.”