Rutgers returned home on a cool, sunny afternoon after suffering their first Big Ten loss in over a year this past Thursday at Penn State. For Maryland, it was an emotional homecoming for head coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer, who spent her prior 18 years on the banks as a player and coach for the Scarlet Knights. She was the associate head coach the last eight years under head coach Mike O’Neill, a testament to how strong this program truly is when you are placing assistants as head coaches on another Big Ten squads.
In front of a large, boisterous crowd, the Knights came out with purpose, controlling the play early in the Terps’s end and having ample opportunities to score in the opening half. Riley Tiernan and Kylie Daigle both had multiple good looks but were not able to put their shots on net. Rutgers outshot Maryland 5-1 in the half, with each keeper making a save apiece. The Knights appeared to be pressing and as the Big Ten announcers pointed out, they needed to be a little more patient and not so eager to take the long shot. Maryland’s defensive line packed the box and made it a point of emphasis to frustrate the Knights’s attack.
Two minutes into the second half, Rutgers had a golden opportunity to break the tie as Tiernan raced down the left sideline and sent a good opportunity in front of the goal. Sam Kroeger crashed in to disrupt the defender and dislodge the ball and Allison Lowrey sent a powerful shot high on net that Terrapins keeper Emory Wegener was able to deflect over the crossbar.
The game was physical, with Maryland frequently resorting to pushing from behind to slow the speed of Tiernan and Rutgers. The Terrapins were hit with three yellow cards and 15 fouls during the match, while the Knights picked up 10 infractions.
In the 68th minute, Tiernan raced down the field in space once again, finding Lowrey, who’s shot was just off target to the left of the net. Becci Fluchel found space in the 72nd minute but fired a shot well over the top of the crossbar.
The final ten minutes saw Maryland start to press Rutgers in a furious attempt to score as the clock wound down. With no overtime in NCAA soccer this season, you could feel the sense of urgency as Maryland tried desperately to score. In the 83rd minute, the Terrapins’s Mikayla Dayes put a dangerous shot on net that sailed wide. Maryland continued to press and attack, anticipating Rutgers’s passes and putting the pressure on the Knights’s defense. Kassidy Banks did a nice job pressing Dayes off the ball in the 86th minute and forcing a corner kick. As was the case all match, the Terrapins failed on their set pieces.
In the 87th minute, the Terps sent a header on net that McClelland was able to save with ease. She then struck a long ball down the field that Emily Mason was able to gather and start one final push for the Knights’s offense. Tiernan took a long cross-field pass that the Maryland defender could not challenge, raced down the left side, and sent a good ball towards the middle of the field to Lowrey that was deflected in the air by the defender. Lowrey was able to head it over in space where Sara Brocious raced past her defender and struck a beautiful ball in the upper right back post. Final Score: Rutgers 1, Maryland 0.
Rutgers finds themselves as the hunted, with Big Ten teams giving everything they got against the Knights. This was a physical, hard fought game that should only help the Knights as the Big Ten gauntlet continues. Rutgers improves to 10-1-0 (2-1-0 in conference). Maryland drops to 2-3-5 (1-2-0).
Next Up: Rutgers travels to Evanston in an important matchup against Northwestern, who currently sits in first place atop the Big Ten standings, tied with Wisconsin, at 3-0. The match takes place on Thurs., Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. ET, streaming on BTN+.