The Maryland Capitols lost their first-ever playoff match, 2-0, to the Syracuse Lady Knights, on a hot and humid afternoon at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex.
Despite being seeded third in the Northeast Atlantic Conference playoffs to Syracuse’s sixth, Maryland seldom looked to be the superior team. It was only another superb performance from goalkeeper Hanit Schwarz that kept this game close as the Lady Knights seemed to be able to breach the Capitols’ back line almost at will.
It took only two minutes for Schwarz to be needed the first time, as a Maryland defender tried to block a pass forward from the Syracuse midfield but sent the ball right to the feet of a Knights forward, who had an uncontested shot. Minute 23 brought another breakaway and another big save, then a third big save when the rebound came back to a Syracuse player, who took a shot from distance with Schwarz scrambling to get back up from the original save. Ten minutes later another forward got through, Schwarz came out to meet her, and she went down. Despite the goalkeeper’s protest that it was a clean tackle, the referee awarded a penalty kick, which Schwarz saved.
I could go on: 57’ forward through, big save; 60’ forward through; big save. In the 66th minute a forward broke through on the left. The back line scrambled to adjust, leaving a forward on the right open, and Schwarz had to make yet another 1-on-1 save.
The magic finally failed in the 68th minute as the Lady Knights were awarded another penalty kick after one of their forwards was tripped in the box while heading in toward the left post with the ball. Alexis Koval fired in a shot that the Israeli national team goalkeeper couldn’t stop, and the score went to 1-0 Syracuse.
Meanwhile, the story at the other end of the field was the lack of targets in the goal area for crosses to reach. In the 21st minute, Kaley Blades made a great run down the left flank and sent a cross to the far post. Unfortunately, there was only one Capitols player in the area, and she was at the near post. In the 32nd minute, Ali Andrzejewski broke free down the same sideline, then had to diddle around with the ball for what seemed like forever while the rest of the team caught up with her. When she finally had some targets, she sent her cross in, but the ball was punched out by the Syracuse goalkeeper Ashley Walsh.
In the 51st minute, team captain Anabel Jimenez sent in a beautiful cross from the right that settled at the far post, but again no one was there to finish it off before it was cleared.
Syracuse put the game away in the 89th minute off a bad turnover deep in Maryland’s own end. Emma Firenze was able to jog the ball in, dodge around Schwarz, and put the ball into the open net uncontested. The whistle blew shortly thereafter.
It was a disappointing end to a largely successful season for the first-year Maryland Capitols. It was the first time they’d been shut out at home or for a full 90 minutes – definitely not among their better performances. That being said, they demonstrated the depth and breadth of the local women’s soccer talent, have given some unheralded nonlocal players like Schwarz and Blades a chance to demonstrate their talents, and have laid some good groundwork to build on in the future.