On Sept. 2, 2016, the then-No. 7 Maryland men’s soccer team converted a 90th minute penalty kick to defeat the visiting No. 24 Georgetown Hoyas, 2-1. 380 days later, on the same pitch, it was Georgetown’s turn to hand the Terrapins a late heartbreak. An 88th minute counterattack goal from freshman midfielder Jacob Montes was the difference in a tightly fought contest, as the No. 13 Georgetown men’s soccer team (10-2-1, 4-1-0 Big East) won 1-0, snapping the No. 3 Maryland Terrapins’ (10-1-3, 5-0-2 Big Ten) 30-game regular season unbeaten streak at Ludwig Field in College Park, Md.
In their final non-conference game of the season, the Hoyas capitalized on an opportunity to boost their NCAA Tournament résumé, as Maryland boasts the nation’s third-highest RPI. Prior to Tuesday night, the Terps had not lost a regular season game in nearly two calendar years, losing most recently on Oct. 31, 2015. Moreover, the Blue & Gray sit alone atop the Big East conference standings—by virtue of a tie-breaker over Butler (8-4-0, 4-1-0 Big East)—with four conference games remaining. The team’s current form stands in stark contrast to last season, a down year in which the Hoyas struggled with injuries and posted a record of 6-9-2. This year, however, the team has responded to the injury bug, which most recently struck the team’s leading scorer, sophomore forward Achara.
“For our guys, it’s obviously a big result based on where we were 12 months ago,” Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese said. “People are stepping up and taking opportunities… I think that’s the thing that I’ve been happiest with. We haven’t let these little injury setbacks hold us back too much.”
In the early minutes of the game, the Georgetown attackers and midfielders were extremely aggressive, with the team often committing six players to the Terps’ half of the field in an effort to generate turnovers and counterattacking chances. This strategy paid dividends by keeping Maryland from maintaining possession, but the Hoyas struggled to string together any sustained possession in the opening fifteen minutes.
“We always try to win the first fifteen minutes of every game by pressing hard against any team that we play. We might have tired out a little bit in the middle of the game,” said Montes.
As Georgetown took its foot off the gas pedal in an effort to conserve energy, Maryland began to employ this same hectic pressure. The Terps completed several through balls towards the corners, leading to several crossing chances. In the 23rd minute, junior midfielder Eryk Williamson fired a dangerous low shot to the near post, but Georgetown’s junior goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski smothered the shot. The Terps continued to chip away at the Hoya defense, but Marcinkowski’s six first-half saves kept the game goalless.
As the half neared its conclusion, both teams seemed to settle into a rhythm offensively, and both sides generated their best opportunities on crosses in the final five minutes. For Georgetown, no attackers were able to find the end of a well-placed cross from freshman defender Sean O’Hearn, while an eight-yard header for Maryland was sent directly into Marcinkowski’s arms. Despite being outshot seven to one in the period, Wiese was confident in his team’s ability to find a goal.
“If you’re going to play at Maryland, you’re just going to have to be patient sometimes… It was one of those things at halftime when you tell the guys, ‘just be patient. Keep your focus. Keep your concentration and discipline,’” he said. “I think our guys did a really good job of getting the ball in their half and asking more questions of their backline and keeper as the game wore on.”
In the second half, both teams became more aggressive offensively in search of an elusive goal. Maryland looked to the size of six-foot-two freshman forward Eric Matzelevich and the craftiness of junior forward Gordon Wild, whereas Georgetown played through the feet of senior midfielder and team captain Christopher Lema. Lema was dominant on both sides of the pitch, contributing defensively and distributing to open teammates offensively.
“Lema may be man of the match for me. He’s been doing that for a while, the little things on a daily basis that have to get done. I thought he and [junior midfielder] Kyle Zajec did a really good job of disrupting a whole lot and getting ahold of the ball for us,” said Wiese.
In the final 30 minutes of the game, Georgetown dominated play. Consecutive attacks that ended with shots that missed by inches inspired Georgetown, who became more aggressive as they began to see an opportunity to score. This increased aggressiveness came at a cost, however, as a bending shot from Matzelevich in the 70th minute forced a diving save from Marcinkowski. Then, the experienced Terps used pinpoint passing to generate a one-on-one opportunity for Williamson from 12 yards out in the 74th minute, but the junior blasted his shot into the crossbar.
From then on, the Hoyas seemed to find a new level of energy and kept the ball in the Terrapin half of the field for prolonged periods of time. As the clock ticked to under five minutes, however, it seemed as though the game was destined for overtime, with both defenses looking stout. A stroke of good luck found the Hoyas in the 88th minute, as Lema received the ball in space and sent in a through ball for Montes, who was running down the center of the pitch. The ball deflected into the air off the legs of Maryland sophomore defender Donovan Pines, who played a nearly-perfect game, and fell to the foot of Montes. Montes remained composed as redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Dayne St. Claire charged the ball, and slotted the shot into the back of the net, the first goal of his career, to give the Hoyas the win.
“We were on the counter. I saw Lema pick up the ball and I know his quality in passing. So I just made my run through and got a lucky bounce and just put it in,” Montes said. “It’s a great experience for me, my first college goal. And, to get it in a place like this, in front of all these fans and against a team like Maryland, it’s a really good feeling.”
Tuesday’s game was ‘Pride Night’ at UMD, as players and coaches from both sides wore rainbow wristbands in support of LGBTQ students around the country.
Georgetown will have three days to rest before taking on conference-foe Seton Hall (5-7-1, 2-3 Big East) on Saturday at home. The game will kickoff at 1:00 pm.