Kennedy Bell surged from the defensive end with seemingly endless space to work with in the 52nd minute. The freshman, looking for passing options in the center of the field, continued to dribble the ball all the way down the sideline.
She battled a defender and drove to the goal line, passing the ball to the penalty spot where Ava Morales waited. Morales, off one touch, sliced the ball past the goalkeeper for her first goal of the season.
That goal would be all Maryland women’s soccer Sunday needed to fend off Towson 1-0 for its first win of the season, breaking a streak of three straight ties.
“I kind of slowed down to see what I could do,” Bell said. “… I looked up and I saw Ava … which is awesome to see because that’s something we talked about a lot … just getting numbers in the box in the final third.”
Maryland’s (0-1-4) substitutions greatly contributed to the attack in the first half.
Morales, who entered in the 30th minute, found herself with space nearing the top of the Ludwig Field goal box shortly after. Before a defender could step in, Morales blasted a left-footed shot that grazed the top of the net and went over the right corner of the goal. She led Maryland with three shots.
Morales contributed across the field both in the offensive and defensive ends for the Terps. On the offensive end, she took defenders one-on-one, displaying her crafty footwork and ability to drive toward the goal. Defensively, she stood her ground as attackers attempted to slide by her.
“I call her sort of my utility player. She can play in the midfield, she can play up top, her vision is unbelievable,” Nemzer said of Morales. “… She’s improved the last two weeks in training. … To see the team, of how excited they were when she scored, it just shows you how much she’s loved as a teammate.”
The Terps pressed Towson (4-0) from the starting whistle. Madison Krakower sent a free kick to the far post from the right side of the field in the 11th minute. Catherine DeRosa attempted to put her body on the ball but missed the post slightly for a goal kick.
Maryland executed well offensively, with players working off the ball to move to the next attacking spot, sending accurate through balls up the sideline and passing quickly in the midfield. Defensively, the back four worked off each other to support the offense, backing up any lost space.
That all led to a dominating performance from the Terps, who outshot the Tigers 16-8 and generated eight corners to their opponents’ three.
“I think the relationships are still coming in that final third and that’s what we’ve been focusing on,” said Nemzer. “… I think there’s some really good things happening right now.”
Near the end of a scoreless half, the two frustrated teams clashed. Maryland midfielder Sofi Vinas exchanged a few words with Towson players, earning her a yellow card right before halftime.
Towson pushed hard to even the game. The Tigers pounced on a promising attack deep in the goal box in the 54th minute. Despite three Maryland defenders cloaking her, Nia Christopher managed to get a shot off. Maryland goalkeeper Liz Beardsley, with full awareness, stepped in front of the close-range attempt and denied Towson the tying goal.
The Tigers tested Beardsley with two shots on goal in the second half — she answered with two saves to maintain the Terps tenuous lead.