NCAA: Maryland downs Rutgers, 2-0, in Big 10 opener

An enthusiastic crowd of 1,420 – including the Mighty Sound of Maryland pep band, which played throughout the match – showed up at Ludwig Field for Maryland’s inaugural home match in Big 10 competition. The crowd would not be disappointed, as the Terrapins women downed the NSCAA #25-ranked Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 2-0.

It wasn’t pretty. The match was physical, with 33 total fouls – 16 to Maryland and 17 to Rutgers – though surprisingly only one player picked up a yellow card, Terps defender Erika Nelson.

And, appropriately enough, the goals weren’t pretty, either. The first one came in the 21st minute when the Terrapins were awarded a corner kick about 30 yards out on the left. Shannon Collins – whose set piece kicks have gotten increasingly deadly – sent the ball toward the top of the 6-yard box. Scarlet Knights goalkeeper Casey Murphy whiffed on it, and it fell to midfielder Maisie McCune, who put it away.

“It hit me,” said McCune, “and then hit my teammate, Shade [Pratt], then we both reached for it at the same time. I got the final little touch, but it was a jumble. It’s awesome that it came from Shannon because we’ve been playing together for so many years.”

The second goal came with just 19 seconds remaining in the first half. Kayla Shea sent a long ball over the top to substitute forward Natasha Ntone-Kouo, who battled Murphy for the ball and won, then sent it into the unguarded net.

Rutgers came out stronger in the second half and almost got one back in the 50th minute when Nelson sent a back pass right to the feet of forward Stefanie Scholz. Goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands charged out to cut down the angle, and Scholz ended up missing wide right. Nelson redeemed herself somewhat in the 59th minute when she was 1-on-1 with Scholz in the penalty area but kept her from getting a shot off. The Scarlet Knights’ Madison Tiernan got just through behind the defenders in the 64th minute but shot right to Beanlands.

Two minutes later, Collins took a corner kick for Maryland that Murphy had to give her all to tip over the bar. Murphy came down hurt after the play, and the clock was briefly stopped while she was seen to. It was the second time that Murphy had had to make a goal-saving play on a Collins corner kick, the first coming in the 18th minute.

In the 77th minute, Rutgers’ Amanda DeVolk was open at the right post on a cross from the left, but the ball came in just too high for her to redirect. Maryland started taking the ball to the corner in the 88th minute and was able to hold on for the shutout despite being outshot in the second half, 11-5.

“Happy with the result,” said head coach Jonathan Morgan. “Happy with the way our kids competed. We found a way to get the result. It’s been about two years since we’ve had that mentality. Great to see that coming back.”

He was particularly pleased with what the result showed about team morale and determination, particularly after last week’s 1-1 draw against Navy in a game the Terps should have won. “Last year damaged our egos, so we’ve been trying to get it back. We left Navy with a really bad taste. We knew we should have had it. Whether we had to do it ugly or we had to do it pretty, we weren’t losing tonight. I hope this is kind of a turn for the better for us as far as finding ways to win regardless of how the soccer is.”

Other notables for Maryland included the return of forward Gabby Galanti, playing her first minutes since getting injured the previous September. “We need Gabby,” said Morgan. “She can score goals. She can stretch defenses.”

And Shade Pratt was listed as a forward in the gameday roster for the first time after being a defender last year and (on paper, at least) a midfielder at the start of the season. Quite possibly the fastest player in Maryland history, she repeatedly used her quickness to beat defenders but seemed to lack the finishing instincts of someone more experienced in the role.

Meanwhile, Morgan and several of the players appreciated the festive atmosphere of the match. “We come to the guys’ games,” said McCune, “and it’s just this insane atmosphere and I’m like, ‘God, that must be so cool.’ Tonight we experienced it.”

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