Not for the first time this season, goalkeeper Rachel Egyed bailed out the Maryland women's soccer team.
Tied, 1-1, at George Mason on Sunday, Egyed pulled off two diving reaction saves in succession to keep the contest score level in the 76th and 77th minutes. The Terps went on to clinch a 2-1 victory in overtime to remain unbeaten.
"Heart attack," defender Sydney Staier said of the sequence. "But Rachel's always got our backs. She's an incredible player."
The redshirt junior keeper split time with Katelyn Jensen and Stephanie Senn last season, but came out as the team's first choice between the sticks, playing about 170 more minutes than the other two. Apart from 45 minutes against Gardner-Webb on Aug. 25 when Erin Seppi played, Egyed has been the team's mainstay in goal this season.
She's accumulated more than 500 minutes in goal through six games, allowing four goals while making 26 saves. Four saves came against the Patriots on Sunday in what coach Ray Leone called an unbelievable outing for Egyed.
It was just the performance the Terps (5-0-1) needed, Leone added. It's important every once in a while for the keeper to "snatch one," he said, and keep them in the game.
"The kid the other night [for Richmond] played like that against us, lights out, and Rachel was like that tonight for us," Leone said. "That was a spectacular performance. The team just believes in her and she saved us tonight."
The Patriots (0-5-0) presented the Terps and Egyed with a tough task: dealing with their high press. In the first 20 minutes of the contest, the hosts controlled possession in the Maryland defensive third and constantly pressured Egyed's goal.
Though George Mason didn't get a shot on target in the first half, constant crossing into the 18-yard box forced Egyed to catch or punch several to thwart the danger. As the Terps grew into the game, Egyed had more time to relax, but she still had to deal with several Patriots counterattacks.
In the second half, the Patriots saw a good deal of the ball, sending shots into dangerous areas. Egyed was called into action often, and was always equal to the task.
For the majority of Sunday's game, Maryland's back four consisted of two true freshmen Staier and Hope Lewandoski in the fullback spots and sophomores Jlon Flippens and Julia New in the middle. Despite the youth and constant rotation, the experienced Egyed has been able to establish communication with whoever plays in front of her.
Whenever there is a miscommunication or close call and Egyed bails the team out, Flippens turns around and simply thanks her.
"We're building a foundation for sure," Flippens said. "We definitely need more work … but it's definitely there. It's building."
When her teammates talk about Egyed, they usually mention how she does not get enough credit for keeping the Terps in games. After she made a big save against Navy on Aug. 20, forward Chelsea Jackson said the keeper's big saves "get overlooked," but her contributions give the team a jolt of energy.
That energy has been present throughout the Terps' unbeaten run in their opening six games.
"Rachel's saves are huge," Jackson said after the Navy game. "That gives the defense momentum, then gives the midfield momentum. It just continues to build. … It's exciting when she makes a big play and it carries on through the rest of the team."