Penn State was awarded a free kick in a dangerous area in front of Maryland’s net in the 34th minute. The Nittany Lions tricked the Terps and played the ball away from their defenders and to the top of the box.
Kate Wiesner wound up and blasted a shot on target, but goalkeeper Liz Beardsley acrobatically dove to her left and pushed the ball out for a corner kick.
That save was one of five in the first half and nine on the night, but Beardsley’s success in net wasn’t enough for Maryland (3-2-4, 0-1 Big Ten) to continue its winning success in its first conference matchup of the season, as it fell to No. 6 Penn State in University Park on Friday, 4-0.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to really just kind of hang out back there and just talk to the girls, just communicating,” Beardsley said. “I really haven’t had to do much. So just my thought process was … I would have to step up maybe one or two times.”
The Nittany Lions pressed the Terps’ defense tightly and Maryland struggled clearing the ball out of their defensive half. Beardsley had to stay alert and made five first-half saves.
The Nittany Lions controlled the majority of possession to begin the match and found the back of the net in the eighth minute.
Penn State (7-0-1, 1-0 Big Ten) swung in a corner kick and the ball bounced around in the goal box before trickling out to the top. Kate Wiesner hammered a half-volley that arrowed into the top left corner and gave her team an early 1-0 advantage.
The strike marked Maryland’s first conceded goal in four matches.
Kennedy Bell stepped up once again for Maryland early on. She stole the ball at midfield and she charged up the pitch while keeping the ball tight to her feet despite countless Penn State defenders sliding to her. Bell eventually found herself deep in the goal box and shot the ball across the face of the goal, nearly finding the far post.
The freshman found her way up and down the pitch throughout the first half, supporting both defensive and offensive lines. Her ability to push up the field allowed her to draw fouls and propel Penn State’s high-pressing defenders back.
Maryland’s defensive success after the early goal meant Penn State didn’t extend its 1-0 lead before halftime. The Nittany Lions were awarded nine corner kicks in the first half, while Maryland registered none.
Beardsley’s stellar performance continued into the second half. In the 58th minute, Penn State found open space near the top of the penalty box. Payton Linnehan knocked a left-footed shot from distance that looked promising. Beardsley dove to her left and got fingertips on the ball to tap it off the post and out for a throw in.
“Liz was phenomenal … she really organized us,” coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer said. “The backs selling out their bodies, blocking shots … I think that’s what has made us special the last three games too.”
Yet the Nittany Lions were able to capitalize once again. Penn State’s Ellie Wheeler danced around Ava Morales to get the ball into space in the 59th minute. Her distant shot took a deflection and slid just past Beardsley and into the back of the net to double the Nittany Lions’ lead.
The Nittany Lions weren’t done. A Maryland attempt to clear the ball from danger fell to the feet of Olivia Borgen directly in front of Beardsley. A touch to settle and chip over the goalkeeper was enough to register Penn State’s third goal of the night.
“The first half, I thought we did a good job with the details,” Nemzer said. “Came back In the second half, I thought those details sort of got away from us a little bit, gonna definitely use this week to clean that up.”
Penn State’s final strike of its productive night came in the 83rd minute when Rebecca Cooke headed the ball past two Maryland defenders and Beardsley, capping off the Nittany Lions’ comfortable win.
The Terps return to College Park Thursday to face Purdue. Cleaning up little details will go a long way in training this week in preparation for another Big Ten foe, Beardsley said.
“[We’re gonna work on] when we win the ball back, knowing where we’re gonna go with it,” Beardsley said. “And continuing to stay compact and solid between our lines.”