By Jack Parry
It had been close all game, but Maryland’s attack had yet to find the back of the net heading into an overtime period. With many on the pitch covered in beads of sweat mixed with light rain on their jerseys, Ben Bender stepped up to receive a pass on the edge of the box. The ball was struck, deflected, and netted for a game-clinching goal.
Maryland men’s soccer was held without a goal in regulation as the Delaware Blue Hens put on one of their best performances of the season, however an overtime stunner was the deciding factor as the Terps were victorious, 1-0.
Away from home and trying to build off of the back of a dominant 3-1 win against Northwestern on Friday, Maryland looked ready to go Tuesday night. They squared up against the University of Delaware, who had lost 3-1 to Northwestern this season, and were the first of the Terps’ final two non-conference matchups of the season.
After an early spell of Maryland attacks, Delaware almost managed to strike through very early. A fast break transition for the Blue Hens resulted in a cross in front of goal that went past the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Niklas Neumann. The cross was not touched home, and blocked out of play in the eighth minute, keeping the game scoreless.
A high press from the home side early in the first half gave the defenders and goalie less time to keep the ball in possession and build an attack. As a result, the forwards and midfielders had to try and create a lot of chances for themselves, and for each other.
An error in the 25th minute ended up giving sophomore midfielder Ben Bender the ball at the left edge of the box with goalie Scott Sampson off his line. Bender whipped the ball to the other side of the field, but no one was there to thump it into the open net.
Right before the halftime whistle, Maryland had what could be considered the best chance of the game. A leading header in transition for Bolma spurred Senior forward Justin Gielen right down the middle of the field with just the keeper to beat. All alone and with a lot of time, Gielen halfheartedly struck the ball with his right foot. But Delaware keeper Scott Sampson went off his line to make a crucial save as the ball bounced behind the goal, keeping it 0-0 in the 42nd minute.
When the first half came to a close it was clear this was already a very physical affair. 29 total fouls occurred in the period to go along with four yellow cards for Delaware, and one yellow card for the Terps.
The start of the second period seemed to introduce a brand-new Delaware side to the pitch. Beautiful transition passing ended up giving forward Ryan Mertz a ball to chase in the 47th minute. Mertz chased it down and fired off a shot that flew up high. A mere minute later, a beautiful transition play from the opposing side gave Bolma the ball in the box who shot it over the crossbar.
As the game slowly winded down, both teams couldn’t seem to get anything going. However late in the second half, the Terps tried to get the advantage. On the receiving end of a beautiful lead pass, junior forward Jacen Russell Rowe smashed the ball with his left right at the keeper Sampson, leading to a save in the 84th. Delaware also tried to break the deadlock late in the period, with Justin Ruth crushing it from outside the box and sending the ball all the way back to College Park.
With missed chances from both sides, the game went into overtime. Delaware seemed to be the much happier team, holding the Maryland attack to a scoreless performance in regulation.
The first period of overtime was almost entirely played in the middle third of the field. Both sides struggled to build anything. But when the shots are as one sided as they were, it seemed like a shoe was going to drop.
And it indeed did.
In the 98th minute, Maryland was trying to build up an attack in the box. A ball by Gielen from way outside was possessed by Joshua Bolma who chested the ball outside of the box. Upon seeing the pass meant for him, a hungry Ben Bender stepped up just outside the box and decided to let one rip from 25 yards out. The ball took a quick trip to the top left corner, with no chance of a save by the goalkeeper Sampson. The field was swarmed by the Terps squad as Blue Hens dropped to the grass in dismay. The shot gave Maryland the 1-0 advantage, and a walk off win to silence the Delaware supporters.
The Terps will look to take this recent run of form into the rest of the regular season as they face off against Pacific University on Saturday back in College Park.
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