TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Senior Becky Kaplan scored both goals to lead the University of Maryland women's soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Alabama in front of the largest crowd ever at the Alabama Soccer Complex Thursday night.
Junior Hayley Brock played a perfect ball to Kaplan, who made a run down the left side and finished with a sliding kick to the inside of the far post in the 89th minute to break a 1-1 tie that stood since the fourth minute of play. Kaplan has now scored the game-winning goal in all four of Maryland's wins this season.
The victory improves the Terps' record to 4-1-1, while the Crimson Tide suffer their first setback of the season and are now 5-1-0 overall.
First, I'd like to take my hat off to Alabama," said Maryland head coach Jonathan Morgan. "They are a fantastic soccer team with quality in every position. Their starting eleven is incredibly talented.
"Our kids were terrific this evening. In front of a hostile crowd, hot and humid conditions, and the fifth road game of the year, we put together our best performance of the season. To single out any one player would be unfair to the whole. We were a good team tonight."
Maryland came out flying at the opening whistle and got out to an early 1-0 lead thanks to Kaplan's team-high fifth goal of the season. Junior Hayley Brock used a head-fake to get a good angle on her defender before slipping a pass through the Alabama back line. Kaplan then ran onto the ball and finished cleanly inside the right post.
The Terrapin lead was short-lived however, as the Crimson Tide knotted the score at 1-1 a few minutes later. A Maryland foul gave Alabama a free kick about 20 yards inside the midfield stripe. Meghan Duffy sent the free kick inside the Terps' 18 and Merel Van Dongen got on the end of it and headed in the tying goal.
Maryland continued to pressure the Tide and Kaplan had another quality chance in the first half, but couldn't get the go-ahead goal. Freshman Riley Barger play another ball through the Alabama defense and Kaplan was 1v1 with the Tide goalkeeper, but the angle limited her options and Shelby Church was able to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Senior Olivia Wagner had three opportunities on free kicks in the opening 45 minutes, but the first went just wide of the upper right 90 and Bama defenders blocked the other two.
The Terps' had another terrific opportunity in the 25th minute, but the Crimson Tide keeper came up with the save again to preserve the 1-1 tie. This time it was Kaplan on the giving end of the play as she found freshman Ashley Spivey making a run through the defense and got off a good strike. Church made the save, but couldn't control the rebound. Spivey made a quick move for the loose ball, but couldn't get there before a Crimson Tide defender cleared the ball.
Maryland came out in the second half and dominated possession and continued to pressure the Alabama defense.
Spivey drew a foul on a Bama defender in the 56th minute, but Wagner's free kick deflected off of a Crimson Tide defender. That gave Maryland a corner kick and Spivey got on the end of Wagner's drive to the far post, but the ball was too hard and Spivey couldn't control the header.
Kaplan had a brilliant individual effort in the 60th minute to create some space for a shot, but Church made a diving save on the low drive to the left post to keep the game a 1-1 tie.
The Terps had another chance just three minutes later when senior Megan Gibbons took the ball down the right side toward the end line. She played the ball to the near post for Brock, who sent it back for junior Kristen Schmidbauer. Schmidbauer got by her defender and was able to redirect the ball toward the left post, but Church was able to get a glove on it and knock it away before it could cross the goal line.
The game was back-and-forth for the next 25 minutes with neither team able to get a quality look at the goal.
That changed in the 88th minute when Kaplan made a run down the right alley and Brock found her with a terrific pass. But Kaplan got a little too deep inside the Bama 18 and didn't have enough of an angle and pushed her shot just wide of the left post.
Redshirt freshman Rachelle Beanlands finished the game with just one save as the Maryland back line of Gibbons, seniors Domenica Hodak and Bailey Bodell and freshman Shannon Collins only allowed two Bama shots on goal.
Church finished with five saves as the Terps put seven of their 15 shots on frame.
Maryland will wrap up its early season non-conference slate on Sunday, Sept. 9 when it hosts Fordham at 1 p.m. at Ludwig Field.