Maryland Pushes Past Michigan State in Hard Fought Big Ten Conference Semifinal

By Emily Olsen

Tsubasa Endoh jogged up to the pitch, backed five yards, and charged toward the ball. He aimed for the top right corner of the goal. Michigan State goalie Zach Bennett got a hand on the ball but it was not enough. The Crew went wild.

Three unsuccessful penalty kicks followed Endoh’s goal, including Michigan State forward Adam Montague whose attempt rolled just left of Zack Steffen and the goal.

Montague hung his head in disappointment as the Terps rejoiced in a team embrace. With the win, the Terps earned a spot in the Big Ten Conference final on Sunday against an impressive Indiana, who knocked off Big Ten No. 2 Ohio State just hours before the Terps’ victory.

Maryland and Michigan State played 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, yet the Terps racked up 13 shots to the Spartans’ eight as Bennett failed to record a single save.

Zack Steffen made two crucial saves for the Terps in PKs. (Courtesy of UMTerps.com)
Zack Steffen made two crucial saves for the Terps in PKs. (Courtesy of UMTerps.com)

Although he had only one save in double overtime, Steffen made two crucial stops during penalty kicks in front of a very vocal Maryland Crew.

“It’s all mental. You just have to relax and say you can do it,” Steffen said. “Last year helped me control my thoughts and emotions.”

The Terrapins’ defense held strong, lead by junior defender Mikey Ambrose who has been a crucial cog in Maryland’s machine defense throughout the recent win steak. Coach Sasho Cirovski said, “Our effort, defensively, was exceptional.”

On offense, Endoh had two opportunities to prevent overtime and then the ensuing penalty kicks but missed on a header with less than two minutes left in regular time and a shot just wide of the goal in overtime. Coach Cirovski made sure to encourage Endoh after the missed opportunities.

“As soon as the game ended he was the first guy I went to encourage and to make sure he knew we had his back and we would find a way to win,” Cirovski said.

Among the success and cheers, a key offensive player for the Terps was clearly missing. George Campbell did not play a minute of the semifinal game due to a prior injury. Campbell had scored in each of the three games before this absence.

The Terps’ last loss was October 5 against Northwestern, a game plagued by a controversial call in the final minutes. Since that game, the Terps have won 10 consecutive games and Coach Cirovski said the team is confident and prepared for physical and competitive challenges.

“After Northwestern I remember talking to a few guys saying we are not losing another game this season, we are not going to let that happen,” said standout scorer midfielder Mael Corboz. “Fortunately that is what has happened so far and hopefully that will happen on Sunday and in the NCAA tournament.”

As for Sunday’s Big Ten Conference final, Coach Cirovski said, “We’re ready for soccer.”

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