The main question hanging over the 2014 Maryland Terrapins was who was going to score for them given that Haley Brock – the team’s leading goal-scorer for the past three seasons – had graduated and heir apparent Alexis Prior-Brown tore her ACL in spring practice and wasn’t going to be available until November at the earliest.
No answers came in their first two matches, a Friday/Sunday road trip to California in which they took on #1 UCLA and then Pepperdine without ever putting one in the net.
It hasn’t helped that Gabby Galanti is also hurt (but expected to return before too much longer) and Alex Anthony is only healthy enough to go about half a match. Then on top of all that, Cory Ryan broke her arm in the Pepperdine match. She got some minutes in these two matches but was wearing a massive cast that looked as if she’d stuck her arm in white cotton candy. “She doesn’t have great balance, she can’t really move that well. She’s just not coordinated,” said head coach Jonathan Morgan. About the overall situation, he said, “We’ve got to do it by committee.”
Even so, Maryland managed two straight wins in their first two home matches, first a comfortable 4-0 win over William and Mary, then a tighter, 2-1, win over North Carolina State.
The scoring drought ended with remarkable quickness as in the 3rd minute goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands cleared a ball out of the penalty area with such vigor that it bounced over the Tribe back line where Alex Doody was waiting to pounce. She took it in and fired it over goalkeeper Caroline Casey and under the crossbar. Said Doody, “Growing up as a forward, you’re always told to predict that bouncing ball over the back line, anticipate it. I just had a good feeling. I saw it coming. It was a nice driven ball, and it took a bounce, and I was like ‘I want that’. I just went for it. It worked out perfectly.”
Beanlands, not surprisingly, was happy to get her name on the scoresheet. “I was just trying to clear it. It was fortunate to bounce in front of Doody, and she had a really really great finish – a classic Doody because she’s really good at this, just chipping it over the keeper. So it was really nice to get the assist, to get your name called on the mikes.”
Doody struck again in the 14th minute after a beautiful feed from underrated flank defender Shannon Collins that sent her through on the left. She sent a low roller toward the right post that Casey dove to try to tip clear but didn’t get enough on it, and it went into the right side netting.
William and Mary had a couple of chances but couldn’t put them away. Shortly after Doody’s first goal, defender Erika Nelson was hounded into giving up the ball. Samantha Cordum came in on goal with it but shot just wide left. Cordum had another good chance on a nice through ball after the second goal, but Beanlands just got to the ball ahead of her.
The Terrapins would get their third in the 38th minute when Nelson lobbed a ball from at least 35 yards out that went in just under the crossbar after Casey leaped for it and missed.
The final goal came three minutes into the second half when Riley Barger sent a cross in from the right. Aubrey Baker tapped it to Alex Anthony, who fired it from about 15 yards out into the upper left corner.
Seconds after the restart, the Tribe’s Cordum fired in a shot that was blocked off the line by a Terrapin defender, then cleared by Madison Turner.
William and Mary would get in a succession of shots in the final minutes, with the first three blocked and the final one saved by Beanlands as time ran out.
“I thought tonight was a good performance for our group, “said Morgan. “It was a result badly needed. We went out on the west coast, played UCLA, which is probably one of the best soccer teams I’ve seen since the Carolina ’08 team. We battled, but we just weren’t at the same level. And then we went out to Pepperdine on Sunday, put together a pretty good performance. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result. We felt like we deserved it. So to work hard the past couple of days to get our minds right, then come out and put together a good performance against William and Mary, score some goals, break that drought for us, it feels good. And they deserve to feel good because they worked hard, and they’ve earned it.
“We just have to find a way to score goals. We’ve been spending a lot of time with it, and a big part of it is our midfield, our midfield breaking pressure when we get balls off of our backs, being able to play it forward, and that’s been taking some time. I thought those kids – Riley Barger, Aubrey Baker, Maisie McCune, Sarah Molina – they all did a good job of really getting our attack going. And our forwards, I think tonight was the first time that they were able to start making some runs. Alex and Alex getting in a relationship with one another, Shade Pratt, we started her up top. I thought her movement was great, and Alex running off her was great, so we made some strides today. We took some steps forward.”
One addition to the “scoring-by-committee” was to move Shade Pratt up top. Pratt had been a defender the past two years but had been moved to outside mid to start off 2014. Tonight, though, she was up top right alongside Doody. “We thought maybe we’d just put Shade up there. She’s got great pace. Maybe she can stretch them a little bit. She only had one day of training. I think her movements were terrific.”
The NC State match was delayed almost two hours by lightning but finally kicked off at 7:55 pm on a soggy pitch that led to a few slips and falls but nothing serious. Pratt would get her first goal of 2014 in the 23rd minute. Aubrey Baker took the corner kick on the left side and sent it short to Shannon Collins, who crossed it in. Wolfpack goalkeeper Mackenzie Stelljes went up for it but whiffed, and it fell right to Pratt in the open goalmouth, who had an easy tap-in.
Maryland utterly dominated the first 40 minutes, with 7 shots (2 on target) to none for State, but with a little over 5 minutes to go, the Pack came alive and had 3 of the next 4 shots. That continued into the second half and paid off in the 48th minute with a nice give-and-go between Jenna Kalwa and Kayla Saager that Saager put away to tie the score. That was about the last hurrah for the visitors, though.
In the 57th minute Collins almost got an olimpico on a corner kick from the right, but Stelljes managed to leap up and tip it off the crossbar. Three minutes later the Terps’ Sarah Fichtner fired a rocket of a shot from 30 yards out that Stelljes again had to leap up and tip away. This gave Collins another dangerous left-footed corner kick try from the right side. Stelljes went up for it at the near post but whiffed again. The ball came to Sarah Molina’s head, and she nodded it in. Maryland would hold on for the next half-hour to pull out the 2-1 win over their former ACC opponent.
Maryland’s next match is just a little ways down the road, at Navy on Monday, September 8, at 5:30 pm. Then they return to Ludwig Field on Friday, September 12, at 7 pm to play Rutgers in their inaugural Big 10 match.
As I mentioned in my summer roundup, I was looking forward to seeing how the young W-League alums of this past summer – particularly the Braddock Road 95ers who are now college freshmen – were getting along. My first opportunity was after the William and Mary match, since two of the marquee 95ers, Elysse Branton and Rachel Moore, have started there. They seemed to be getting along well, almost finishing each other’s sentences.
“It’s been awesome,” said Moore.
“It’s been tough, but really fun,” added Branton.
“I feel like we get better and better every game.”
I asked if the summer experience had helped them. “W-League definitely did,” said Moore. “It’s a faster pace than club soccer. Playing with tons of college players and older players.”
“It showed us what this was going to be like, and it’s pretty much the same,” agreed Branton.
“I would say it’s the same.”
“Definitely helped us.”
My colleague Jennifer Gordon noticed that Moore wasn’t shy about giving instructions on the field despite being a freshman. “No, not me. I would never do that,” Moore said at first with a laugh, then got more serious. “I mean, I’m in the holding midfield position, and I pretty much see everything in front of me.” She laughed again, nervously. “I hope the seniors don’t mind.”
I asked if the Terrapins were the toughest team they’d ever played. They disagreed and spoke up for their team. “We didn’t show bad today – it was just a tough team,” said Branton.
“We were dictating the pace a lot. It was just four mistakes – literally four mistakes.”
“We kept the ball well. We just need to work on a couple of things and get ready for Sunday.”
“They had like five chances on goal, and they scored on four. We don’t finish our chances, obviously in the last five seconds.”
They were scheduled to play George Washington on Sunday, but that game was postponed by lightning halfway through by the same weather that delayed the Maryland game.