When UCF goalkeeper Vera Varis denied Maryland women’s soccer forward Alyssa Poarch with two consecutive athletic saves in the 64th minute Thursday, the second preventing Poarch’s follow-up volley on goal, it felt as if the Terps were doomed to their fourth straight scoreless match.
For an offense that has struggled to produce quality chances en masse throughout the year — and one that has rarely converted those opportunities into end product — the double-save seemed to be yet another costly miss.
But after Varis’ second stop, the ball trickled across the goalmouth to midfielder Hope Lewandoski, who was positioned perfectly on the far side of the net for a game-tying tap-in, ending the Terps’ scoring drought at about 364 minutes.
The following outburst, when Lewandoski was met by an exuberant group of her teammates, seemed to have been building during the Terps’ lengthy struggles to find the back of the net, and it spurred the Terps onto a 1-1 draw.
“It was a really good breakthrough for everyone to show that we can score,” Lewandoski said. “And that this drought is hopefully over for us and we can move forward as a team.”
Less than a minute before halftime, though, the Terps displayed a dramatically different release of emotion. After another key opportunity on goal for Maryland, midfielder Loren Sefcik walked toward midfield with her hands on her hand.
Sefcik’s shot attempt ricocheted off the outstretched hand of a diving Varis. Poarch closed in from the far side of the pitch, and the redshirt freshman seemed poised then to slot home the equalizing goal. Instead, Poarch’s attempt flew just wide, prolonging Maryland’s wait for a score.
With the exception of their equalizing goal, the Terps were outclassed for much of the game. UCF held a decisive 19-5 shot advantage and controlled the bulk of possession. The Terps’ five shots came on just two scoring chances.
After Maryland lost possession in the midfield in the 33rd minute, midfielder Zandy Soree slid a pass through Maryland’s defense for defender Kenya Plummer to run onto. Goalkeeper Rachel Egyed rushed out of the net, trying to cut off Plummer’s angle, but the junior chipped the sliding Egyed and put UCF on top.
During regulation, the Terps were outshot 16-5 by the Golden Knights and struggled to possess the ball in the opposing half, putting significant pressure on their defense to keep the team within striking distance.
“[The defense] did incredible,” Egyed said. “Everything I do on this field is for this team, and I just replicate the effort and heart that they’re giving. I couldn’t ask for more from them.”
Just as UCF was picking up momentum down the stretch, a bolt of lightning halted play with 13 minutes left to play, icing the Golden Knight’s pressure and giving the Terps a much needed break.
So, Maryland’s backline — a bright spot during its scoring deficiencies — held strong after allowing UCF to take a first-half lead, and allowed Lewandoski to secure the Terps a draw at home.
“Our team did the best that they could against a much more experienced team than ours,” Leone said. “I’m pleased with our effort. Our performance is getting there.”