Joshua Bolma has been the offensive catalyst for Maryland men’s soccer all season. It was no different Friday night against Ohio State.
Whether it was a pass to a streaking teammate or a set shot, Bolma excelled.
Assisted by a quality performance by Bolma, the Terps clawed their way to a 2-1 win over the Buckeyes at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Caught in its first true hostile environment of the season, Maryland took the initiative a few minutes after the ball left the center circle. After repelling a couple of strong downfield pushes by Ohio State, a Buckeye passed the ball to his goalkeeper for a clear attempt.
But a trailing Jacen Russell-Rowe wrecked that plan. He took possession of the mishandled ball and pushed hard with a defender along with the goalie between him and the net. Russell-Rowe loaded and fired a shot that ricocheted off the upper-right post in an early wasted chance.
“I thought in the first half we played exceptional,” coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We were in complete control of the game. We moved the ball well, we defended well … unfortunately we’re only up 1-0 at the half.”
While the next few chances for the Terps were misplaced, a startling play by Bolma changed things in the 23rd minute.
Pushing for the goal, Bolma bounced outside with an open shot attempt available. Bolma declined the shot, cut the other way and launched a pass to a waving Hunter George. He contorted as he geared his left leg to make contact and netted the strike as he fell away.
That was the transfer’s forward first goal of his Maryland career, and a long-awaited one at that. George’s goal helped the Terps attain a 1-0 lead, and they would keep that edge into the half.
“I thought [Bolma] was gonna cross it with his left foot, but he cut back really well and then he hit a perfect ball in,” George said.
Ohio State, mostly grasping at straws on offense in the first 45 minutes, managed a few shots, with the best chance being a long ball crossing high above Niklas Neumann’s head and over the goal.
With O-H-I-O chants ringing into the night, the Buckeyes revitalized the starving offense they initially showcased with more pressure on Maryland. Several hard pushes by Ohio State were stopped the Terps’ defense, including on several corner kicks.
“One of the first games of the season where I had the opportunity to step up big time, and I had to face a couple of 1v1’s, couple difficult shots,” Neumann said. “Today, especially in the second half, we gave them some easy and silly opportunities to capitalize on, and I’m just happy I could help the guys out.”
The ball even came directly in front of the goal in a scrum before a player knocked it out of range. Despite the push, Maryland’s offense was just too much.
On one of their few possessions of the second half, the Terps passed the ball around in dangerous territory for the Buckeyes. The ball came to Bolma, and the striker made it look easy. Setting up and launching a shot to the right corner, Bolma caught the keeper off guard and made it a solid 2-0 lead for Maryland.
“He was terrific,” Cirovski said.
But the excitement didn’t end there.
Neumann followed a crossing pass in front of the goal a few minutes later and slid over quickly to block a dangerously close shot. Ohio State’s best chance of the night to that point went empty, but the team got closer.
Pressuring the Terps, the Buckeyes finally got their chance after a foul near the goal gave Ohio State a penalty kick. One on one with Neumann, Laurence Wootton launched the ball into the left corner.
Neumann guessed right, but he was too late. Wootton scored and made it a 2-1 game with 24 minutes left in the match. The Buckeyes fought their way back into the game and leveraged their possessions into scoring opportunities.
“I think we still have to find our killer instinct identity, which we haven’t seen yet this year,” Cirovski said. “We have to stop making it so difficult for ourselves by putting teams away or being able to manage the game a little bit better.”
It became more apparent as the half went on that Maryland wasn’t going to put Ohio State away. The Terps would just have to survive.
With the help of several second-half saves by Neumann, Cirovski’s squad did just that, escaping with the road victory.
“We grew a little bit more today with our identity, but we still have a ways to go,” Cirovski said.