COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Freshman Natasha Ntone-Kouo scored her first career goal and that proved to be the game-winner as the University of Maryland women’s soccer team posted a decisive 3-0 shutout of NC State Thursday night at Ludwig Field.
The Terps improve to 7-5-0 overall on the season and even their conference mark at 2-2-0. The Wolfpack falls to 6-7-0 for the year and are now 1-6-0 in ACC play.
Maryland dominated possession in the first half and that was evident in the dangerous opportunities produced.
Sophomore Riley Barger started two chances for the Terps, but both we’re thwarted by NC State keeper Karly Gustafson.
The first was in the 25th minute when Barger played a nifty through ball for senior Hayley Brock, but Gustafson came off of her line to get the ball before Brock could run onto it for the shot.
The second came just three minutes later, this time after a solid takeaway she played a crafty chip shot over the Wolfpack backline again looking for Brock. Gustafson came up once again amidst Brock and an NC State defender to pluck the ball out of the air off of a bounce.
Maryland finally broke through in the 37th minute on an opportunity that wouldn’t have materialized if Gustafson hadn’t mistakenly touched a shot from sophomore Ashley Spivey that was sailing noticeably wide of the Wolfpack net. The Terps capitalized on the ensuing corner kick when senior Megan Gibbons sent the ball toward the back corner of the six and freshman Lauren Berman headed it back into the middle of the box. That’s where Ntone-Kouo was able to poke at it with her right foot and get it past Gustafson into the upper left corner of the NC State goal.
The Terrapins had two chances from junior Cory Ryan as the first half clock was winding down. The first came from a cross by redshirt-sophomore Amanda Gerlitz into the six, but Ryan was only able to redirect the ball without much on it and Gustafson made the save in the 43rd minute.
Another Ryan effort was stopped by Gustafson less than a minute later. Sophomore Aubrey Baker took the ball away from a Wolfpack player near the midfield and was able to send it over to Ntone-Kouo, who took it down the right flank. Ryan took over from the deep right side and beat two defenders to the inside, but her shot from 16 yards was smothered by Gustafson.
NC State had a chance in the 45th minute with a free kick from roughly 35 yards out on the left side of the Maryland box, but the service into the 18 was headed away by sophomore Erika Nelson.
The Terps jumped on the Wolfpack right from the opening whistle of the second half and Brock netted the team’s second goal just 53 seconds into the half. Sophomore Sarah Fichtner played the ball down the right side for Gibbons, who crossed the ball into the box. The service was beautifully played and came down for Brock, who one-timed it with a knee over Gustafson to make it a 2-0 Maryland lead.
Maryland’s next goal came in the 52nd minute and was again setup by a Terrapin corner kick earned by a shot by Spivey. This time Spivey had a great turn with a defender at her back and ripped a shot from 19 yards, but Gustafson was knock the ball away to prevent the goal, but surrendered the corner kick.
Gibbons sent this corner from the far left corner into the Wolfpack 18 where an NC State defender headed it out of the box on the right side. Sophomore Aubrey Baker was there to collect the loose ball and seemed to look to play a cross back into the box. But her cross turned into a brilliant shot as the ball curled elegantly into the upper left corner to make it a 3-0 Terrapin advantage.
Baker and Spivey each looked to put a fourth goal on the board with solid strikes in the 56th and 63rd minutes, respectively, but Baker’s try from distance just barely went wide of the upper right 90 and Spivey had another blast that Gustafson, who finished with 10 saves, just got enough of to tip over the cross bar.
The Wolfpack’s best scoring opportunity came in the 66th minute when a loose ball bounced inside the Terrapins’ six-yard box and sophomore keeper Rachelle Beanlands got tied up in a scrum and couldn’t corral the ball. It looked as if it might tumble into Maryland’s empty net, but Nelson was there to clear it away and prevent the score.
“Tonight was great and our team worked its tail off,” said Maryland head coach Jonathan Morgan. “It’s been constant Top 5 team after Top 5 team and tonight it was great for our kids to have a little more time and space on the ball and just be able to play.
“Scoring the goal early was great for the team’s confidence and it allowed them to not play so tense and I think we generated a lot of opportunities after that first goal and ended up getting two more. We had the opportunity to play everyone tonight, so it was a great night for the team. Now it’s time to prepare to play Carolina.”
Maryland returns to action on Sunday, Oct. 6 when it heads down to Chapel Hill, N.C., to face No. 6 North Carolina at 1 p.m. at Fetzer Field.