Ben Bender followed his deflection as it flew up into the sky, fighting for body position with Indiana’s Nyk Sessock.
As the two made contact, Bender bounced backward and crumbled onto the pitch, staying facedown in pain as play continued on around him. But he didn’t leave the game at that point.
Instead, he gutted through fifteen more minutes before he was substituted out. Bender’s start was a true game-time decision. Sporting a shoulder injury, the freshman midfielder was doubtful to play until the warmup. He was inserted into the lineup just 20 minutes before kickoff.
He labored through Maryland men’s soccer 2-0 loss to Indiana, which ended the Terps’ Big Ten title aspirations and highlighted the limitations of a roster without its top-end talent.
“He’s an absolute tank, he’s a warrior,” senior forward Eric Matzelevich said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s his shoulder, hip, anything. He’s just gonna power through it.”
Though Bender did have a strong outing in his 79 minutes, he was clearly limited, grimacing and holding his shoulder throughout the match. He was tested shortly after that collision with Sessock, when he found himself with a golden opportunity.
A Chris Rindov header was deflected right back to Bender, who got a left-footed shot off in close near the net. But the shot sailed high and wide.
Maryland was playing yet another game without its leading scorer, forward Paul Bin, and his absence was evident as the Terps had 11 total shots with just three on goal.
The Terps had a prime chance early in the match, when Matzelevich found himself streaking down the left flank. After Brayan Padilla drew a couple defenders toward him, he dished the ball over to Matzelevich’s right foot.
With nothing but the goalie between him and the first score of the match — one that could’ve changed the entire tone of the game for the heavily favored Hoosiers — Matzelevich’s boot curled wide of the goal and knocked soundly into the barriers behind the net as he put his hands behind his head in disbelief.
It was emblematic of a first half that saw Maryland hold its own with the vaunted Hoosiers but fail to capitalize with a goal.
“We were super fired up going into halftime,” Matzelevich said. “We had them on the ropes going in there. Obviously I missed a pretty big opportunity which I wasn’t too thrilled about.”
On the other side, Indiana’s top talents were sublime. Victor Bezerra, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, had a pair of goals that displayed his high-end talent.
For his first, he beat Nick Richardson to the front of the goal and then received a deep volley from Sessock. Before the ball touched the turf, it found Bezerra’s leg, deflecting past the goalkeeper Jamie Lowell for the eventual game-winner.
Even on that play, a Maryland loss loomed large. Richardson had to switch over to left back because Alex Nitzl, the usual occupant of that spot, left the game late in the first half with a leg injury.
On the second, Bezerra barely tucked a free kick past a lunging Lowell, a rocket that sizzled over the grass as it bounced off the right post and in. It was a deft play; if the ball was placed just slightly to the left or right, it would’ve bounced off the post and out or slammed into Lowell’s extended right hand.
“[Bezerra’s] got a really good feel for the game and he’s got a great shot, but he can also beat you off the dribble. He’s the guy that could create his own chances but he can also get on the end of chances, and he’s a set piece specialist,” coach Sasho Cirovski said. “So he’s kind of a complete striker.”
Cirovski was yet another notable absence from the game. After receiving a pair of yellow cards in the quarterfinal victory over Rutgers, the Maryland coach watched the evening’s proceedings in Bloomington from the pressbox while assistant coaches Jake Pace and Miles Vaughn handled the coaching duties.
“Jake and Miles did everything right, in terms of rotation and decisions,” Cirovski said. “I don’t think it had any effects, except for it was tough on me.”
It was a tough outing for Maryland as well, as both on the pitch and on the sidelines, the Terps were undermanned and overwhelmed by the Hoosiers. Now, they turn to Monday’s selection show, looking for a chance to bring a healthier and more refined squad into the NCAA tournament.