The top seeded Maryland Terrapins scored two goals in the first half before rallying behind the clutch play of goalkeeper Cody Niedermeier to beat the Wisconsin Badgers, 2-1, and win the Big Ten Tournament Championship.
“This was another great team performance and once again we showed our resiliency,” Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said, according to the team’s website. “We showed our championship fiber. This is an absolutely remarkable accomplishment.”
Maryland’s tournament win marks their fifth straight postseason tournament win and third straight Big Ten Tournament Championship.
Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year Cody Niedermeier paced the Terps with seven saves, four of which came in the second half when Wisconsin desperately pushed for a tying goal.
In the second minute defender Suli Dainkeh launched a ball over the Wisconsin defenders to seek out forward DJ Reeves’ run.
Reeves accelerated to reach the ball, possessing it just before it crossed the end line, sped past a Badger defender before side stepping the goalkeeper and lifting the ball past goal-crashing defenders into the back of the net: 1-0 Terps.
After establishing an early lead the Terps suffered a lapse of concentration at the defensive end.
In the 11th minute Wisconsin midfielder Christopher Mueller slipped a one-touch pass through the Terps defense to forward Tom Barlowe – Barlowe sped past his marker Suli Dainkeh, collected the ball and calmly slid it under an outstretched Cody Niedermeier: tie game.
The teams exchanged spurts of possession and quick counter attacks, with neither afraid to let shots fly from outside the 18-yard-box.
The Terps’, especially DJ Reeves, speed caused nightmares for Wisconsin defenders, as they struggled to contain him and routinely gave up corner and free kicks.
Maryland dominated the corner kick battle with eight corners compared to three for the Badgers. They also narrowly won the shot category with 13 shots, 7 on goal, to Wisconsin’s 11, 8 on goal.
Later in the half Big Ten Forward of the Year Gordon Wild lined up a free kick from 25-yards-out for the Terps – Wild struck the ball with his preferred left foot and sent a knuckling ball toward the top right corner. It beat the goalie, but struck the crossbar.
In the 42nd minute Maryland midfielder Jorge Calix whipped a corner kick to the near post where forward Sebastian Elney redirected the ball, which deflected off a Wisconsin player, toward the far post and into the goal: 2-1 Terps.
The second half was a story of stingy defense by Maryland. Big Ten Defender of the Year Alex Crognale, partnered with Suli Dainkeh at center back, used his aerial prowess to routinely sniff out Wisconsin crosses.
On the rare occasion that a cross or throw-in eluded Crognale, Dainkeh and the rest of the Maryland defense, Cody Niedermeier’s goalkeeping heroics saved the day.
In the 65th minute Wisconsin got a cross past Crognale and co. Tom Barlowe, who was within two yards of the Maryland goal, thumped a header on goal only to be stonewalled by Niedermeier’s reflexes.
A few minutes later Wisconsin, which had employed the long throw-in strategy all day, launched a throw to the back post. Wisconsin midfielder Mike Catalano met the cross with a shot, but it was stopped by Niedermeier diving low to his left and pushing the ball wide.
Niedermeier, Crognale and Wild made the all-tournament team, while Crognale and Wild secured Defensive and Offensive Player of the Tournament honors.