By: Joe Catapano
Maryland women’s soccer head coach Ray Leone said his team had a clean slate after Sunday night’s 5-2 loss to George Mason. With nonconference play behind them, the Terrapins had four full days to prepare for its first year of Big Ten competition under Leone.
After struggling in nonconference play, Maryland faced no easy task heading to Piscataway to take on No. 22 Rutgers. But the Terrapins, who conceded 10 goals in its previous two matches, held the Scarlet Knights to just one goal. Unfortunately, Nicole Whitley’s 10th minute free kick was the only score in a Rutgers’ 1-0 win.
Maryland’s defense has been plagued by mistakes and mental lapses, resulting in a frustrating 2-5-1 start the season. The one mistake the team made tonight made all the difference. Whitley’s free kick was intended as a cross, but no player on either team got a touch on the ball. Maryland goalkeeper, Katelyn Jensen, was blinded by a muddle of players as the ball trickled into the far side of the net. Barring that error, Maryland’s defense kept Rutgers fast-paced offense from capitalizing. Jensen’s eight saves kept the Terrapins in the game until the final whistle.
With 17 minutes left to play, Rutgers was outshooting Maryland 17-2. The frustration was palpable as the Scarlet Knight’s pressed for a game-clinching goal. But just as Rutgers prepared for a free kick just outside the box, half of the lights at Yurcak Field shut off.
This delay gave Leone precious time to gather his players and formulate a last-minute plan to possibly steal a point away before heading back to College Park. For Rutgers, the delay prolonged the time it was forced to fend off a tireless Maryland squad.
When play resumed with just under 16 minutes left, Maryland still couldn’t create meaningful opportunities against the Scarlet Knight defense, as Rutgers held on to take the Big Ten opener.
Maryland (2-6-1) comes home to play Illinois (3-6-0) next Thursday night at 7 p.m. in its Big Ten home opener. Maryland fell to Illinois on the road last season in a heartbreaking 2-1 double-overtime loss.