At halftime of Maryland women’s soccer’s game against Nebraska on Sunday, Terps coach Ray Leone was searching for an offensive spark to counteract the Cornhuskers’ pressure.
Maryland’s 1-0 lead was under heavy fire. Nebraska held an 5-2 shot advantage at the time and was continually controlling possession in its offensive half.
Leone put forward Kady Badham on the field to start the second half, and she provided a spark for the Terps.
When midfielder Darby Moore won the ball near midfield in the 59th minute, she passed it to Badham, who cut inside and accelerated into the box. Badham then unleashed two dangerous crosses, the latter of which Moore slotted home but was ruled offside.
After playing off the bench for the first seven games this year, Badham has started two of the last three matches. While her showing against Nebraska didn’t save Maryland from a 2-1 defeat, her pace has been a welcome addition to the team.
“[Badham] is just really fast,” Leone said. “If there’s something you need a little extra turbo charge, put Kady Badham up front. She’s done it many times and been quite effective for us.”
[Read more: With 2 goals in 2 games, Darby Moore is becoming an attacking threat for Maryland soccer]
While Badham’s speed makes her a scoring threat up front, Leone values her skillset as a defender, too. Her physical attributes make her difficult for opposing attacks to get by, and after struggling in Big Ten play in previous seasons, the Terps may have an answer to the conference’s powerful forwards.
In Maryland’s Big Ten opener last week against Iowa, Badham played every minute at center back. The Terps beat the Hawkeyes 4-0, their largest margin of victory in conference play since moving from the ACC in 2014, and Badham’s aggressive ball-hawking in the middle was a major factor in that.
“When we make a lineup, each person on the field is there for a specific job,” Badham said. “When I get put in defense, it’s usually for my speed, but … [Leone] needed me more up top [against Nebraska] to get the ball in the final third.”
Last spring, Badham put her speed and versatility on display, exciting Leone and the coaching staff about her potential going into the season. However, she struggled to find the lineup early on after suffering an ankle sprain during Maryland’s preseason.
It took Badham a while to improve her conditioning and rhythm enough to become game ready, but she started her first game of the season against George Washington on Sept. 9 and has been a consistent lineup fixture ever since.
“Kady is really strong on and off the ball,” midfielder Anissa Mose said. “She has good vision of the field so she’s able to find these passes from wherever she’s playing to our forwards and even into the box if she’s playing up top. So I really think that’s been key for us.”
As Maryland progresses through its Big Ten slate, the Terps must find a way to build off their impressive start. With a resounding win over Iowa and an overtime loss to Nebraska, the Terps are in position to win multiple conference games for the first time since 2014.
But to accomplish that, Badham should be a key piece for Maryland, wherever Leone positions her.
“I came in as a forward, and when [Leone] got here he made me a defender,” Badham said. “I’ve played forward a lot so I definitely feel more comfortable there, but I’ve grown in the past couple of years to be confident in the back.”