As Madeline Smith parried a cross away, Michigan State’s Ava Cook battled to get onto the rebound.
She fought her way to the ball and only had to take one touch before stabbing it home, giving her side an early lead over Maryland women’s soccer.
The goal wouldn’t be her last.
The transfer from Division II Grand Valley State proved to be too much for the Terps, as she notched a brace, allowing the Spartans to cruise to a 2-0 victory.
“She’s a special player,” coach Ray Leone said of Cook. “Very athletic, very smart. You got to be accounting [for] her all the time. She did very well tonight and throughout the season.”
Michigan State found the opening goal in the 19th minute. Zivana Labovic whipped in a cross that Smith was only able to knock away as far as Cook, who finished from six yards out.
The forward found her second just 10 minutes later. Maryland failed to clear a through ball, and Cook pounced, slotting the ball into the bottom corner to give the Spartans a 2-0 lead.
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The Terps had their best chance of the half in the 34th minute, when Mikayla Dayes was able to get onto the end of Zora Jackson’s cross. But, the forward wasn’t able to direct her header on target.
Michigan State took the 2-0 lead into halftime, outshooting Maryland 11-5 in the first 45 minutes.
The Spartans looked to add to their lead early in the second half, as Lauren DeBeau fired a shot off the crossbar from about 20 yards out in the 55th minute.
The rebound fell to Cook, but keeper Liz Brucia was able to make an incredible save from close range, denying the forward her hat trick.
Leone praised Brucia’s performance, who was able to keep a clean sheet after coming in at halftime.
“She was fantastic,” Leone said. ”She’ll definitely start the final game and play the whole game against Michigan. She was really, really good tonight.”
The Terps were able to connect more passes and get further forward in the second half but failed to challenge Michigan State goalkeeper Lauren Kozal.
Maryland wasn’t able to find the back of the net in its second straight match, as the Terps succumbed to a 2-0 defeat.
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Maryland was outshot throughout the match, with the Spartans holding a 21-9 advantage in shots over the Terps. Leone hopes to see his defense improve this weekend.
“We were too far away, our cover was too far,” Leone said. “When they beat the first line, the second wasn’t right there to cover, and we were against Indiana. And so we got to solve that really quickly if we want to play better against Michigan.”
The loss brought Maryland’s winless streak against Big Ten opponents to 23. The Terps’ last win against a conference opponent came in East Lansing, Michigan, in 2019.
The win was a massive one for Michigan State, who secured qualification to its first Big Ten tournament since 2011 with the three points.
Maryland will take on Michigan in its final match of the season on Sunday. Leone hopes to see more out of his players after a disappointing performance against the Spartans.
“I want to see a more complete effort,” Leone said. “I want to see a performance and an effort like they did against Indiana and not tonight, where we were responding to everything. We need to take the initiative.”