When the final whistle sounded on Maryland women’s soccer’s come-from-behind win over Purdue on Sunday, the Terps’ bench poured onto a rain-soaked Ludwig Field to celebrate.
On the comfort of its home field, where Maryland boasts a 7-1-2 record, coach Ray Leone’s squad jumped to sixth place in the Big Ten entering the final week of play. And with two games remaining, the first Big Ten tournament berth in program history is within reach.
But with both matches on the road, the Terps will have to clinch in enemy territory, where they have struggled to come away with results this season. The inability to do so has plagued an otherwise fruitful campaign — Maryland’s most successful since joining the Big Ten. The Terps will have no choice but to buck that trend if they want to extend their season.
“We didn’t shy away from the fact that we struggled on the road,” Leone said. “That’s something we’ve talked about a bit in the past, but now, with the last two on the road, you have to address it and try to shake things up a little bit.”
While Maryland has posted its highest win percentage at home since 2010, the Terps are at an uninspiring 1-4-1 on the road this season, with the sole win coming against then-No. 20 Rutgers.
Away bouts have brought out a completely different Maryland team, particularly on offense. The Terps have struggled to get their offense moving, and have been outscored 14-3 in road games. At home, Maryland is lethal in attack, outscoring opponents 20-8.
All season, the Terps said they were proud of performing in front of their fans and that doing so gives them an extra energy boost. But now, as the season draws to an end, Maryland is focused on replicating that in unfamiliar territory.
“You are representing your school, and that hits home for a lot of these girls,” midfielder Darby Moore said on Oct.16. “It’s a spirit we have to recapture when we’re on the road.”
Defender Anissa Mose said that Leone has worked on getting players to focus solely on the game and not allow external forces to have an impact on their performance.
“We’re going to be playing on grass there, and we play on grass here, the only big difference is that we’re not sleeping in our own bed,” Mose recalled Leone saying during their practice earlier in the week.
Recreating what Leone called the “Ludwig Attitude” during road games is something the team has tried to do in past weeks, and the Terps will have two more vital chances in the regular season at proving their ability to adapt away from home.
“They gotta treat it like a regular game,” Leone said. “They just gotta play hard, play who is in front of them, play the next play. If they do that then the best team, whoever it is, is gonna win.”
As the final two matches of the regular season approach, Maryland has the chance to redeem itself, going on the road for the first time since dropping two games in a row to Nebraska and Iowa.
The Terps will face last-place Michigan State and second-place Michigan to close out their campaign, where one win clinches a spot in the Big Ten tournament.
If Leone’s squad is unable to pick up the win needed to secure a tournament spot, it will have to turn its attention to Indiana, Nebraska and Northwestern — which are each tied for seventh place, at 11 points. Ohio State could also surpass Maryland with two wins. But the Buckeyes take on No. 10 Wisconsin and Iowa, which have both secured tournament spots already.
The Terps were not expected to be fighting for a place in the Big Ten tournament at the beginning of the season, holding a 13th place preseason ranking. But having the “Ludwig Attitude” and pulling out an away win with monumental ramifications would lay the groundwork for future success in the Big Ten.
“Many teams that I’ve been on have been an underdog. This is something I’m kind of used to,” Mose said. “But my dad taught me that being the underdog, you’ve got something to work toward. … Being the underdog and people not expecting us to do as well as we have been doing this year would be a huge reward for us.”