RALEIGH — N.C. States undefeated run ended against the team picked to win the ACC mens soccer championship. But if the Wolfpacks first foray against a nationally ranked opponent is any indication, it looks like a contender in the ACC, and maybe beyond.
Junior forward Alex Martinez maintained his torrid scoring pace with both N.C. State goals, but they werent enough as top-ranked Maryland rallied for a 3-2 victory Friday night at Dail Soccer Park.
N.C. State (6-1, 0-1), which was ranked 14th nationally by Soccer America and off to its best start since 1982, had hardly let the near-capacity crowd of more than 2,300 settle into its seats when Martinez struck less than five minutes in.
He collected a cross from junior defender Ryan Metts on the right side of the penalty area, took on All-ACC defender Taylor Kemp one-on-one, and finished with a low, curving shot inside the right post at 4 minutes, 38 seconds to beat goalkeeper Keith Cardona.
The Pack couldnt make the lead stand up, though. Maryland (5-0-1, 2-0) took control during the middle stages of the match and used its possession game late to keep N.C. State at bay.
To be fair, we created some other great chances, N.C. State coach Kelly Findley said. I thought we probably deserved a goal on Danny DiPrimas chance six minutes later. I thought we were better in the first half. But I wasnt pleased with how we started the second half.
Thats when the Terrapins seized control.
Maryland, which had more corner kicks (9-2) and shots (15-9), finally equalized late in the half when reserve forward Jake Pace headed in Kemps corner kick at 40:22.
The Terps kept the momentum to start the second half. A failed clear by N.C. State led to the go-ahead goal. Patrick Mullins came up with possession 20 yards out. The forward sent a pass to the left flank to Kemp, who crossed into the penalty area. Freshman forward Schillo Tshuma one-touched the pass out of a crowd and beat State goalkeeper Fabian Otte just inside the left post at 47:04.
Thats key, the last five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half, Findley said.
Maryland made it 3-1 when All-American midfielder John Stertzer converted a penalty kick at 59:36 after N.C. States Moss Jackson-Atogi was called for holding Pace in the penalty area. But Martinez got that one back with his own penalty kick at 62:15, when he was tripped by Mullins after a flashy bit of dribbling just inside the 18-yard box.
Hes been great, Findley said of Martinez, who leads the Wolfpack with seven goals and four assists. What he did tonight was what hes been doing all year for us.
Against the Terps, the Wolfpack was without injured junior forward Nazmi Albadawi, an Athens Drive High grad, and the offense had trouble creating chances in the late going, taking only three second-half shots.
It makes a difference to give up one of your best players, Findley admitted. But I thought we played well enough to win the game tonight.