Despite Maryland women’s soccer entering its third conference match of the season at 1-1 in the Big Ten — the same record it had at the same point the past two seasons — coach Ray Leone believes the Terps are in a far better place than those squads were.

A second-half surge in Maryland’s 4-0 win over Iowa on Friday secured its largest conference margin of victory since joining the Big Ten. And while the Terps failed to generate many chances after taking an early lead against Nebraska on Sunday, Maryland still forced an overtime period in the loss.

So when the Terps play Rutgers in the final game of their five-match homestand Sunday, Maryland enters with confidence stemming from a stronger start than previous years.

“It’s a really big push for us,” midfielder Anissa Mose said. “We’ve never had a start like this, so I think it’s really giving us momentum, giving us more drive to push forward and get a result.”

[Read more: Kady Badham’s “turbo charge” has been a valuable asset for Maryland soccer]

Entering conference play, however, the future was uncertain for a Maryland squad struggling to score goals. Over a five-game stretch before Big Ten play, the Terps were shut out four times, managing three draws as the defense and goalkeeper Rachel Egyed stepped up.

Though, after scoring five goals in two games last week, Maryland may have found an antidote for its early-season offensive deficiencies.

“We’re super-duper pumped right now,” defender Kady Badham said. “Having that great of a start just gets us in the right mindset and lets us know we can be a top contender in the Big Ten.”

[Read more: With 2 goals in 2 games, Darby Moore is becoming an attacking threat for Maryland soccer]

In the Big Ten preseason poll, Nebraska was predicted to finish 8th and Iowa was voted 10th. Maryland slotted into the penultimate conference place. The Terps’ results against higher-rated squads is a promising sign for a team that finished 2-18-2 in the conference slate the previous two seasons.

But a win Sunday against the Scarlet Knights will give Maryland its best conference start since 2014, the year the Terps joined the Big Ten. While Maryland hasn’t scored against Rutgers in its past three meetings, Leone feels this season could be a turning point.

“We were excited that [Iowa] was the biggest result in any Big Ten game in Maryland history. I didn’t know it, they didn’t know it, and I said, ‘You did something special together, no one can take that away from you,'” Leone said. “But now they’ve got to move on. I’m already on to Rutgers.”