Almost a month into the season, Maryland women’s soccer has yet to win a game.
The Terps played Indiana on Sunday, in a true test of their potential to keep up in the Big Ten. Though the match ended in a loss, the quality of the gameplay highlighted the potential that’s been heavily discussed throughout the season.
“This was the best they’ve played,” coach Ray Leone said. “I think they’ve been much more frustrated in the other games.”
There were high expectations for Maryland entering the season. With the Terps coming off their most successful campaign in the Big Ten yet, the hope was that they’d come into this season even better — and even more prepared.
But it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Though Maryland has seen a mixture of performances, it has yet to put together a complete 90 minutes.
In its opening match against Michigan State, Leone’s squad managed to tie the score in the very last minute. Mikayla Dayes forced a deflected shot into the corner of the net, securing a draw.
In their second game, the Terps got on the board early — scoring in the 19th minute. They got another at the very end, sending the game into double overtime. In the end, Purdue secured the win, but Maryland saw the positives nonetheless.
“I think the fight in this team is really, really promising,” Leone said. “Even in the overtime, I mean, the heart was taken out of them and they still had a chance.”
Next time out at Northwestern, the Terps continued to demonstrate their ability to fight, especially on defense.
Maryland goalkeeper Kennedy Tolson held strong in net, making two diving saves and keeping the score tight. But for all of their defensive efforts, the Terps just could’t find the back of the net.
“Definitely one thing that we want to work on is just speed of play,” forward Emily McNesby said after the loss to the Wildcats. “Now we’re working a lot on passing, quicker movement, more dynamic, and things along those lines.”
Then came Ohio State — where everything seemed to go backward.
The Buckeyes scored three times, swiftly dispatching a Maryland team that couldn’t keep up with its opponent’s quality.
The Hoosiers, then, were set up to be a tough opponent. And the Terps seemed to channel the motivation from a disappointing loss.
Though Indiana scored quickly, Maryland was very much in the game against a competitive Hoosiers squad. And the Terps responded swiftly. Sydney Staier delivered an assist to Alyssa Poarch, who delicately placed it in the back of the Hoosiers’ net.
Going into the second half, it was anyone’s game.
Indiana managed a goal in the 56th minute, giving it a lead in the beginning of the second period. Keyera Wynn then equalized for Maryland in the 82nd minute, setting up a tense last few minutes.
But the Terps couldn’t quite hold on. The Hoosiers scored within a minute of Wynn’s leveler, sending Maryland to a 3-2 loss.
Still, despite the result, there was hope for the Terps. They had stuck with an Indiana team that had already secured victories against Iowa and Rutgers — a program they hadn’t beaten since 1994.
And Leone took solace in that. Though the games may not get any easier — their next two games are against teams that have picked up tough Big Ten wins — Maryland’s quality of play is improving.
In an unprecedented season, that might be enough.
“My focus is on this team’s effort and response to what happened today,” Leone said. “They fought down to the last second.”