Two years to the day of its last conference win, Maryland women’s soccer battled hard with Michigan to take the game all the way to overtime.
But just 30 seconds into the first overtime period, Nicki Hernandez’s mishit cross sailed past goalkeeper Liz Brucia and into the back of the net, devastating the Terps and dooming them to their second straight winless season in Big Ten play.
Despite a heartbreaking loss, the Terps performed admirably, taking a Michigan team that they were 0-7 against all-time into extra time.
“[They] never, never quit,” coach Ray Leone said. “It just really showed today. I mean, there was tears of being at the end, but also tears of some sort of satisfaction of performing against a team that has quite frankly handed it to us every single time we’ve played them.”
The Terps implemented a new formation with five defenders with only a day of practice before the match, and it almost paid off. Leone couldn’t have been happier with how his team adapted to it.
“They did it today to perfection,” he said. “It was beyond what I could actually, what I could ever hope for on how well they played today.”
Maryland came out flying and almost got off to the perfect start in the third minute. Kori Locksley drove into the penalty box and squared the ball to Emily McNesby, but her shot on the back post was blocked.
The Terps pressed well and looked the better side throughout the beginning of the first half, but Michigan grew into the game taking the lead in the 30th minute.
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Alia Martin intercepted a pass for the Wolverines and strode through Maryland’s midfield, playing a ball into the box to Raleigh Loughman. An audacious first-time chip from a tight angle found the back of the net.
Michigan took the one-goal lead into halftime, outshooting the Terps 14-4 in the first half.
But Maryland would respond immediately in the second period.
McNesby found Mikayla Dayes at around midfield and the senior did the rest.
Dayes drove forward as the Wolverines’ defense continued to back off, and her left-footed shot from just outside the box tied the match at 1-1.
“[It was] a beautiful counter attack,” Leone said. “A team like that who has a decent amount of possession, you know they’re going to be opened up when they lose it and just to see the runs up top and finally give [Mikayla] the space. She was right on frame, hit it relaxed, and it was a very good goal.”
Michigan came close to regaining the lead, but hit the crossbar for the third time in the 58th minute off a glancing header from Kacey Lawrence.
The Wolverines continued to bombard the Terps’ defense, and were inches from scoring in the 64th minute.
Brucia came out to parry away an initial cross from Michigan, but the ball fell right to Avery Kalitta.
Her ensuing shot at an empty net all but assured another lead for the Wolverines, but defender Alexis Hogarth tracked back and cleared the ball off the line, denying Michigan once again.
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Brucia continued to stand on her head, keeping the Wolverines at bay despite multiple close-range attempts in the 72nd and 79th minute. She finished the match with a career-high 10 saves.
“Oh my god [her performance] was one for the ages,” Leone said. “She was fantastic and I’m just happy for her. The team was going crazy… they were just totally rooting for her, it was an amazing performance.”
Michigan wasn’t able to find the back of the net in the second half despite dominating Maryland on both ends of the field, sending the Terps to their sixth overtime of the season.
Hernandez knocked in the game winner in quick order, dashing any chance Maryland had at picking up a conference win in 2021. It would’ve been a fairy tale ending of sorts had the Terps earned their win on Sunday, but they were outplayed from whistle to whistle.
Maryland is only the second team to ever have back-to-back winless Big Ten seasons since 1994, when the conference introduced women’s soccer. Iowa wasn’t able to notch a win in 2003 and 2004.