Lauren Wrigley charged down into the top of the goal box with the ball at her feet. As she took her fifth and sixth touch, defenders crowded her surroundings, forcing the ball away from the Maryland women’s soccer midfielder.
Such plays were common in Sunday’s Terps’ 1-0 loss to Florida in Gainesville. The Gators capitalized on Maryland’s over-dribbling, stealing the ball away repeatedly and limiting the Terps to just six shots — none of which landed in.
“I thought that we were sharp for the majority of the game,” Nemzer said. “One moment we fell asleep and credit to them … But as far as playing soccer, the relationships building, playing out of the back, I was extremely happy with tonight.”
One such chance came in the 80th minute. Maryland’s Madison Krakower danced around three Florida defenders nearing the left side of the box. She sent a right-footed shot to the far side of the net, hoping a Maryland attacker to get on the end of it and finish — but none arrived and the ball eventually went out for a Florida goal kick.
Maryland got a prime opportunity late in the second half. Freshman Kennedy Bell sprinted down the right side of the field but passed it back to the top of the box. There, a Terps attacker nearly landed a shot on goal but the Florida defense intercepted the chance.
But Maryland’s defensive play remained promising. The Terps back four pressured Florida, interrupting the Gators’ quick passes to gain possession and move toward the attacking zone.
“Obviously today was a tough game and it was important to stay connected and [work] hard in the backline,” Katie Coyle said. “A lot of us focused on passing on energy when we need it and giving 100% of what we have during the whole game.”
Maryland’s defense also maintained good ball movement. They consistently switched the point of attack to the side of the field where no Gators were present and moved the ball up the pitch. Bell, who earned praise from goalkeeper Liz Beardsley for her play, used her speed to rush up and down the field to aid both offensive and defensive play.
“We put a little bit more into an attacking position the last 10 minutes. She didn’t come off the whole entire time,” Nemzer said of Bell. “… She is definitely a leader of that freshman class and even upperclassmen — they respect her and she’s becoming more vocal back there.”
Florida struck in the 40th minute. Lena Bailey settled the ball off a throw-in — with her head up and back to the goal, she danced around Eden White to set up a shot on the right side of the box. Her right-footed blast slid past Beardsley to the left side of the net to put the Gators up 1-0.
Beardsley, who earned a shutout in her Maryland debut against American, was strong in net outside of that goal allowed. She anchored the net, taking away large parts of the net with her imposing stature and quick reads.
She fended off a spiraling attempt from Bailey in the 42nd minute, diving to her left to deflect the shot out of play.
“Liz did an unbelievable job … I think the biggest thing is just making sure that we eliminate maybe those further distance shots,” Nemzer said. “… Someone wants to take a shot from 25 yards out, then I’ll take that shot.”
She needed to continue that strong play in the second half to keep the Terps within one as the Gators swarmed Maryland. Clean passes out from the defense and perfectly placed balls sent over the Terps’ back line helped Florida control the attack. Beardsley finished with three saves.
Offside calls spoiled Maryland’s offensive opportunities Sunday — just as they did in Thursday’s match against American. The Terps had four promising-looking chances wiped away due to such infractions.
They’ll look to improve on the showing Thursday when they face Navy in their first home match of the still-young season.
“We decided we’re not giving up any games at home,” Coyle said. “We’re getting three points on our Ludwig homefield and we’re working on winning the DMV, focusing on our day to day habits.”