The Maryland Terrapins endured a withering barrage of shots from the nationally ranked (#11-#15) West Virginia Mountaineers but held the visitors to a single goal in – surprisingly – the first-ever meeting of the two teams. The visitors outshot the home team 21 to 5 overall and 7 to 2 with shots on target. They also had 6 corner kicks while giving up none.
The decisive goal came in the 25th minute. Defender Carly Black sent a nice ball forward to Amandine Pierre-Louis, who found space to fire a rocket of a shot in from the edge of the penalty area on the right. Goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands was able to make the save but not hold onto the ball. She, defender Amanda Gerlitz, and forward Kailey Utley all went for the rebound, but Utley got there first and was able to tap it in.
Utley deflected most of the credit for the goal. “Carly played a great ball to Z [Pierre-Louis]. Z did all the work on that goal. I was just there to frame it and finish it.”
Beanlands described it as, “That was a tough save because it was a really hard, driven shot, and I was just trying to get it as wide as possible. Unfortunately, she got a toe-poke on it while I was trying to make a recovery save. So it was just a really good shot and a really good play on their part, and it just got by us, unfortunately.”
But surprisingly that was the only goal given up in the first half despite the Mountaineers 15-2 advantage in shots, 4 of which were on goal. By contrast, the Terrapins had just 2 shots and 1 on target.
Maryland changed formations at halftime, and it made a significant difference. “We changed our formation from a 4-3-3- to a 4-4-2,” said Gerlitz, “so it helped out our midfield a little bit and with tracking back our runners, keeping the ball.”
Head coach Jonathan Morgan: “Trying to match up with them 3-against-3 was a pretty poor decision on our part – my part. But I think in the second half we sorted it out, went to a 4-4-2, and it made a huge difference in the game for us. I think in the first half we chased a little too much, didn’t necessarily have the legs to really get it going in the second half. Really proud of our group – talk about grit, they showed it in the second half and gave us a chance to get back in it.”
Maryland’s best chance of the match came in the 62nd minute when the Terps got the ball to an open Sarah Molina at the top of the box. She fired the ball in but missed just barely wide right, with the ball bouncing off the sideboards and into the back netting, briefly fooling many of the fans into thinking she’d scored the equalizer.
They had another good opportunity in the 69th minute when Sarah Fichtner fired in a shot from about the same distance, but Mountaineer goalkeeper Hannah Steadman made a leaping save.
The shots were much more even in the second half, 6 for the Mountaineers and 3 for the Terrapins, with 2 and 1 on target, respectively.
Despite the win, according to Utley the visitors still had work to do. “There’s some things defensively that we’ll work out in practice. Offensively we need to be finishing our chances, working on our runs in the box and just connecting from midfield to forward.”
Gerlitz was pleased with the performance of the Maryland back line. “We played as well as we could. We had a lot of pressure on us the entire half. I think we gave it away too much in the midfield, so it kept coming down on us. So the pressure was constant in the first half. But we picked it up in the second half, and it was much better.”
Beanlands also complimented them. “You guys know our operative word is GRIT. I think we were really gritty on the back line. Not much got through us. There were a lot of shots from outside, quite a lot of long-range shots. So credit to our back line because they’re a really athletic team, West Virginia. I think we competed with them for every ball.”
Morgan was impressed with the Mountaineers. “Athletically, they’re just special. If they can’t pass out of pressure, they can dribble out of pressure. I thought we defended really well at times and got them exactly where we wanted them, but then a special player is able to break that pressure and get themselves out of that jam.”
Meanwhile, according to Gerlitz, the West Virginia defense was especially tough. “Whenever we played it into our forwards, we had to turn it back. There wasn’t much space to turn at all. It seemed like they dropped pretty well when we were trying to play long balls over, so it cut off the space for the forwards too. They just seemed pretty organized.”
There are 10 seniors on the Terps roster this year, 7 of whom started. I asked Morgan if that made this a make-or-break year for the team. “No, I don’t think so. We have a lot of Gabby Galantis, Alex Anthonys, Alexis Prior-Browns coming back. This is a really good group, a solid group, but I think we’ve done a really good job of recruiting. We’ve got some really great kids whose experience this season is going to be super-valuable for them. We’ve got a really outstanding goalkeeper who’s kind of waiting in the wings right now, too, who could very easily be starting for us right now. So I think our future is really great in this place. Our next two classes, ’16 and ’17 are pretty fantastic, so make or break? I wouldn’t say that.”
Maryland falls to 2-1 and next faces La Salle at Ludwig Field on Sunday, August 30, at 7 pm. They then play two games in Texas (TCU, SMU) before returning home to face James Madison on Thursday, September 8, at 7 pm.
West Virginia rises to 2-1 (but the loss is to Virginia Tech). They play Duquesne in their home opener August 30 at 3 pm, then stay at home for Penn State (September 4, 7 pm) and Villanova (September 6, 1 pm).