Maryland men’s soccer advances to Big Ten Tournament semifinals defeating Rutgers in a penalty shootout

(Courtesy Photo of Maryland Athletics.)

With an opportunity to send Maryland to the Big Ten semifinals, redshirt senior forward Mike Heitzmann stepped up to the spot with confidence. 

The forward stepped up and rifled the penalty past Rutgers sophomore goalie Oren Asher, securing the Terps’ victory over the Scarlet Knights in penalties.

“I’ve been kinda waiting for that moment because I missed one in the Big Ten Semifinal against Indiana in 2018,” Heitzmann said. “So, I’ve always like had that in the back of my mind and I knew I wasn’t gonna miss. I just knew it, I just needed redemption.” 

Heitzmann took off his black jersey and waved it around in celebration. The rest of the squad sprinted to him as the Maryland fans attendance went into a frenzy.

“First of all, I’m incredibly proud of our team in, number one playing a great game and, number two coming back late in the game to tie it on a great goal, and then having the resilience and toughness to go into penalty kicks and bringing it home,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. 

Both sides started the match slowly. However, Maryland controlled possession of the early stages of the match. 

Rutgers had the best chance of the early stages of the match in the 22nd minute. Freshman forward Moussa Sabaly took a strike outside the Maryland box towards the net, but midfielder/defender Nick Richardson made a diving stop. The Scarlet Knights entered the Terps box soon later, but freshman goalie Jamie Lowell stopped the dangerous cross. The remainder of the first half was quiet as both teams entered halftime scoreless.

Maryland found its best opportunity up to that point in the match in the 51st minute when senior forward Eric Matzelevich sent a rocket towards the Rutgers net, but Asher punched the shot away.

While the Terps had another great chance 12 minutes later, Rutgers struck first. In the 75th minute, Sabaly sent in a brilliant cross into the center of the box. The ball landed near freshman forward Ola Maeland, who immediately scissor-kicked a rocket into the back of the net past Lowell to put the Scarlet Knights up 1-0. 

“As soon as they scored I saw the guys, the energy really picked up and the urgency, you knew we’re gonna get some chances,” Cirovski said. 

That chance came in the 83rd minute. Junior forward Justin Gielen controlled the ball outside the Rutgers box and sent a curving rocket past Asher, which tied the match at 1 with under 8 minutes left. 

“It was crazy,” Lowell said. “I saw it curling, the goalie dove, honestly I thought he might get to it.” But then I saw the curve of the ball and I kind of knew it was in. I couldn’t help myself but just scream, I was just screaming my head off.”

Neither team was able to create any more substantial chances in regulation, which sent the game to overtime. Maryland saw more chances in the first overtime period. Sophomore forward Brayan Padilla sent a strike towards the Rutgers goal, but Asher denied the opportunity. 

Soon later, Cirovski became furious with the non-call in the box and was given a yellow card. After continuing to argue with the official, Cirovski was awarded a second yellow card sending him off for the remainder of the match.

The second overtime period saw the visiting Scarlet Knights create quality opportunities to win the match. However, Lowell rose to the occasion and denied them, which sent the game into a penalty shootout after 110 minutes. 

“Obviously it’s a stressful situation on the PK spot,” Lowell said. “To be honest, I know as soon as the second overtime whistle rang I didn’t feel that stressed today, because I believe in the guys that we have taking the kicks. I believe in all the guys on the team, and I knew that I just needed to make just one or two saves.”

After a back and forth first five rounds, Lowell made a save that opened the door for Maryland to secure the victory. Heitzmann did exactly that, launching a shot into the back of the net, sending Rutgers home and Maryland to the semifinals.

“Now it’s on to the semis,” Cirovski said. 

On Wednesday the Terps will face the winner of the quarterfinal contest between No. 1 seed Indiana and No. 8 seed Northwestern.