A slight breeze accompanied cloudy skies for kickoff time at Ludwig Field. But over the next two hours, the sun arrived in full force.
It leered over the goalkeeper, a green-clad freshman bouncing on the balls of his feet as he stood in the net, awaiting his next challenge.
Maryland and Rutgers men’s soccer were deadlocked at four after the first five rounds of penalty kicks, with both teams staring down a possible end to their Big Ten tournament dreams.
As Rutgers’ midfielder Anthony O’Donnell swung his foot forward, Maryland’s Jamie Lowell dove down to his left, meeting the ball with his left arm extended and sending it out of harm’s way. As the ball spun away from the goal, so did Lowell, getting up to his feet before flexing and saluting to his teammates.
On the ensuing Maryland opportunity, Mike Heitzmann would pot home a penalty kick to the right corner to send the Terps to the Big Ten semifinals on penalties.
“As soon as the second overtime whistle rang. I really didn’t feel that stress today, because I believe in the guys that we have taking the kicks,” Lowell said. “I knew I just needed to make one or two saves … and so that’s what I did.”
[Maryland men’s soccer prevails over Rutgers on penalties]
The Terps needed Lowell to get them there, as the freshman stood tall in the goalmouth with four saves, a litany of them under great duress.
With 22 minutes left in the second half, Lowell found himself staring down a hard-charging Ritchie Barry. Without hesitating, the goaltender sprinted out of the net, barrelling toward the forward.
Lowell cut down the angle and deflected the Barry shot off his shin and away from the goal — but it wouldn’t be the last Scarlet Knight opportunity he’d be tasked with saving.
Barry found himself in position to strike again late in the second half, but Lowell was there once again with quick hands and strong positioning to deny him — and keep the Terps within one. Shortly thereafter, Justin Gielen responded with a game-tying goal with just minutes remaining, sending the game into overtime.
“I think he had a sense of confidence and you can just see that he’s maturing and getting stronger from game to game,” coach Sasho Cirovski said. “He’s a big body, and there’s an intimidating body in there with his wingspan and size.”
[Three Maryland men’s soccer players named to All-Big Ten second team]
In the second overtime, Barry struck again — this time with a much better angle to score. Lowell stayed low and square to the shooter. As Barry’s drive came through, trying to squeeze the ball between Lowell’s legs, the keeper responded, punching the ball up and over the goal.
It was a taxing game for the freshman. Even though he wasn’t tasked with as much running as his counterparts in the field, his decisions and potential missteps loomed larger, particularly in a game where goals were scarce.
“If you think about mistakes, if you think about messing up, you’re probably going to mess up,” Lowell said. “Honestly, the only thing I had on my mind was to get a win.”
But even as the match stretched on, his focus didn’t seem to waver, and the pressure of the situation didn’t seem to get to him. As the clouds parted and the grey in the sky shifted to blue, the one constant was Lowell, who stood tall in his biggest test yet.