While the Maryland women’s soccer team was able to maintain a 3-2 advantage to secure its first win of the season against William & Mary on Thursday night, coach Ray Leone could sense his team wasn’t relaxed.
The Terps were hesitant to move the ball around. They didn’t appear to be completely comfortable.
But in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Penn, that wasn’t the case. It was the first time the Terps felt they could play well regardless of the opponent, Leone said.
“Near the end of the game, [they were] finally relaxing and moving the ball around,” Leone said. “We’re playing as hard as we possibly can, but it’s not the most possession style of soccer at the moment.”
Without forward Alex Anthony, the Maryland women’s soccer team’s leading goal scorer in 2015, the Terps planned to rely on a handful of offensive threats. But through the team’s first three contests, there wasn’t much variety.
Forward Chelsea Jackson scored the team’s lone goals in each of its first two games. In the Terps’ win over the Tribe, forward Jarena Harmon recorded a hat trick.
But Sunday, Leone gave midfielders Cassie Phillips and Darby Moore their first starts of the season, and both scored within the first 12 minutes.
“This was the first time there was chemistry in the attack,” Leone said. “That’s the thing that takes the longest. It’s not going to be thrown together in three weeks.”
Maryland first got on the board in the sixth minute when Moore scored on a pass from Jackson. Penn goalkeeper Carrie Crook collided with a Quakers defender, allowing Moore to tap the ball into the net to give Maryland a 1-0 advantage.
In the 13th minute, Phillips launched a shot from 30 yards out that pierced the upper-left corner of the net.
The Quakers made a change between the pipes after Phillips’ goal, and goalkeeper Kitty Qu helped keep the Terps off the board for the remainder of the first half.
Still, Maryland outshot Penn, 4-3, in the opening period and entered intermission with a two-goal lead.
The Quakers dominated possession to open the second before getting on the board with 20 minutes remaining. Forward Olivia Blaber scored past Maryland goalkeeper Katelyn Jensen, who was out of position after playing the previous shot. Penn outshot Maryland, 9-1, after halftime.
But moments later, Harmon headed the ball into the lower-left corner of the net off a free kick. Maryland was up 3-1, extending a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“I feel like they really grew up in this game particularly,” Leone said. “[Our first win] gave them a bit of confidence that they can play at this level.”