With Big Ten tourney in its sights, Maryland women’s soccer has another hurdle to conquer

Maryland women's soccer huddles before beating Minnesota, 2-0, on Sept. 22, 2019 at Ludwig Field. (Gabby Baniqued/The Diamondback)

Defender Niven Hegeman repeatedly slammed her hand into the grass at Ludwig Field, writhing in pain during Maryland women’s soccer’s second game of the season. Days later, she would be ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

The Terps subsequently dropped two straight games against Auburn and Georgia by a combined 9-0 scoreline.

And when starting goalkeeper Erin Seppi missed two key games during Big Ten play while sick, Maryland was forced to use its backups to go 1-1 during the stretch. But even since Seppi’s return last weekend, the Terps lost two straight games again, failing to find the back of the net once.

While Maryland has taken knocks throughout this season — causing fluctuations within the lineup — the team has no qualms about its ability to get through adversity. Instead, the roadblocks are an asset for Ray Leone’s squad as it continues to fight to make its first Big Ten tournament in school history.

“We’ve been through a lot already,” Leone said. “Seppi being out, a lot of people have been in and out of the lineup. Next man up mentality has been strong for this group. It was unfortunate, trying to get a result last weekend and we just couldn’t get it.”

[Read more: With unrelenting pressure, Iowa and Nebraska beat Maryland women’s soccer at its own game]

The Terps are coming off one of their worst weeks of the season after dropping two Big Ten games against Nebraska and Iowa. Maryland had not lost back-to-back games since the second week of the season during the Bulldog Classic.

In the period between those rocky weekends, the Terps had not gone two games without earning a result. Maryland rebounded from a 3-0 loss to Wisconsin loss with a 2-0 victory over Minnesota on Senior Day. Almost two weeks later, the Terps were stymied in a 1-0 defeat to Ohio State on the road. Following that loss with a 6-2 thrashing of Illinois, setting a school record for goals in a Big Ten game.

Even after tight draws, Maryland has displayed resiliency.

Following their draw to Temple on Sept. 12 after a last-minute equalizer, the Terps put away Princeton 3-0, spoiling the Tigers’ hopes at breaching the United Soccer Coaches Top 25 poll.

[Read more: Iowa trounces Maryland women’s soccer, 4-0, in one-sided contest]

Now Maryland faces another obstacle to overcome, having doubled its conference losses in one week.

“Every week we have a goal that we want to take home at least one point [in the Big Ten],” senior Darby Moore said. “This week was the first week we didn’t meet that goal. It was hard, but if we just refocus on ourselves and what we can do as a team, we can come back … in full force.”

Still, the Terps have already made history this year, tying the school record for Big Ten wins with three. With four games left, Maryland has the chance to rewrite program history by making its first appearance in the Big Ten tournament.

“It’s something that I’ve been looking forward to personally for the last five years I’ve been here,” Moore said. “To be this close and to be a part of the team that’s been this close, it really hits home for me to show how much we’ve turned our program around.”

The Terps play host to Indiana, which sits just one point above them in the standings, on Thursday as both teams look to solidify their chances of playing in the conference tournament.

Sitting in ninth place in the Big Ten with nine points, one place away from putting itself in position to make the tournament, Maryland is well aware of the implications of Thursday’s home bout.

A win would mean overcoming yet another obstacle.

“We all know what’s at stake, the ability to appear in the Big Ten tournament is up for grabs at this point,” Seppi said. “We do hold our fate in our own hands. Trusting the game plan coach is putting in front of us, trusting the girls on the team — that’s important. Knowing whatever happens, happens, but we’ve got a good shot.”

Please support our journalism by donating to The Diamondback.


Recommended Articles