When goalkeeper Rachel Egyed and forward Jarena Harmon departed at the end of the 2018 season, there were questions over who would replace Maryland women’s soccer’s three-year starter between the sticks and its top goal scorer.
But through 11 games of the 2019 slate, coach Ray Leone’s squad has found new centerpieces on either side of the pitch. In Saturday’s 2-1 upset of then-No. 20 Rutgers, forward Alyssa Poarch put away her team-leading sixth goal, and goalkeeper Erin Seppi put together another clutch performance in net.
With Poarch and Seppi playing at a high level, the Terps have found answers following key departures, pulling off their first away win since the 2018 season opener against William & Mary.
“It was a great game,” Leone said. “End to end, some great saves from both goalkeepers. Alyssa was electric that night, her shooting was just unbelievable with both feet. She was a threat the whole night.”
Seppi took over from Egyed, who had been a constant in goal for the past three seasons and was a two-time All-Big Ten third team honoree. Seppi played in five matches last year, but the bulk of time went to Egyed.
She’s cherished the opportunity in her senior year.
“It definitely has been a longtime coming,” Seppi said. “Freshman year to now I think my confidence has increased. My relationship with my backline has become a lot stronger. I’m so comfortable with them being in front of me, and I know that they’ll work as hard as they can.”
Since taking her place in the net, Seppi has started all but one game this year, when she ceded her starting spot on Senior Day to teammate Andi Wenck. Seppi has recorded 45 saves and holds a .738 save percentage.
Her clean sheet against George Mason and her strong performance against George Washington — where she made a career-high 11 saves — in September earned her a Big Ten Co-Goalkeeper of the Week award.
“She’s definitely become a leader,” Poarch said. “After Rachel left she didn’t take any steps back. She looked at Rachel as a role model and took a step in a good direction.”
Seppi saved Maryland against the Scarlet Knights with a key save in the 59th minute on a curling shot from Brittany LaPlant that looked as if it would find the top corner. Seppi made a leaping save to punch the ball over the bar and keep the Terps’ lead intact.
Poarch has already set herself apart, too, tying Harmon’s team-leading 13 points from last year in just 11 games. Harmon was the top scorer for Maryland last year, but Poarch is now the go-to option up front.
“AP has just blown us all away,” Seppi said. “She is one of the most dynamic players I have ever seen. Her ability off both feet has just been super clutch in every game we’ve played. As a goalkeeper, I know I’m very comfortable playing it long to her.”
Poarch has been a problem for opposing defenses because of her ability to create chances on her own. Her goal against Rutgers began with her collecting possession in the midfield. She also added to her point total with an assist on Hope Lewandoski’s goal late in the first half.
“She wants the ball in the pressure moments,” Leone said. “She’s just getting better, and stronger in every game. She knows she could be one of the best forwards in the league.”
For her efforts against Rutgers, she was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week on Tuesday, becoming the third Maryland player to earn a conference honor this year, following Seppi and defender Malikae Dayes.
Despite being capable of producing goals on her own, Poarch said she owes her progression to the help of her teammates.
“A lot of my teammates help with my confidence,” Poarch said. “Coming in after my injury last year, having them help me through my frustrations helped me through this season.”
If she scores four more goals by the end of the season, she will be the second Terp to reach the double-digit goal mark since Maryland joined the Big Ten.
After the impressive performances by Poarch and Seppi in the win over Rutgers, the Terps now look on to a road battle with Ohio State Thursday before returning home to face Illinois, two more contests Poarch and Seppi will be essential for.
“Every [Big Ten] team is so different,” Leone said. “I coached in the Pac-10 and they all played the same during that time. In the Big Ten everyone plays a little bit different. You just put one game away and then move to the next challenge.”