Zora Jackson turned her defender inside out. She cut to her left, then back to her right, surging down the wing. Then she crossed the ball right on to the foot of Sydney Staier, who lashed the ball into the net.
It was a flash of the quality Maryland women’s soccer possesses. It was also the solitary consolation goal in a disappointing 3-1 loss to Ohio State on March 4.
On Thursday, the Terps have another shot at the Buckeyes, this time in the Big Ten tournament. Despite a winless record, Maryland is hoping to turn things around — and on a bigger stage.
“I mean you can look at our record,” said Staier. “I don’t think it really displays the type of team we are.”
Yet, the Terps ended their regular season on a dour note, getting thrashed 6-0 by Penn State. Now, the question is whether Maryland will be able to find motivation coming out of a winless season and turn it into surprising results in the conference tournament.
But that won’t come easy. Ohio State is ranked second in the Big Ten, directly behind the Nittany Lions.
[No. 6 Penn State blitzed Maryland women’s soccer early en route to blowout win]
The Terps put up a solid showing against the Buckeyes in their first meeting. Ohio State outshot Maryland, 13-11, fueled largely by the play of star freshman midfielder Peyton McNamara. McNamara rifled two shots into the back of the net, taking advantage of Maryland’s careless play in its own half.
“We’re giving up the ball in our own half of the field in really bad spots,” coach Ray Leone said on March 4. “It makes it easy for the other team, they only have to go 30, 40 yards and that’s it. We have to be smarter.”
But Maryland did have chances. Jackson sandwiched Staier’s goal with airmailed shots. Forward Alyssa Poarch sent a strike wide. Catherine DeRosa’s late-game effort, barreling toward the bottom right corner, was saved by Bailey Kolinski.
In the end, the Buckeyes’ attacking quality shone through. But there were moments of promise that the Terps will look to replicate.
“I think we had a lot of good moments in the first half attacking,” Staier said on March 4. “We just need to work on carrying that into the second half whether we’re down a goal or not.”
On Thursday, the worst defense in the Big Ten will need to remain sturdy against Ohio State’s powerful offensive line if Maryland wants any shot at an upset. Throughout the season, the Terps have had a great deal of difficulty staying consistent through an entire game.
[Goalkeeper Kennedy Tolson has been a consistent performer for Maryland women’s soccer]
In many matches, Maryland has taken some time to warm up, allowing its opponents to quickly score and capture the momentum. This often puts the Terps in too deep a hole, rendering them unable to come back and win in the end.
In rare cases this season, Maryland has burned itself out with a hard-fought first half. This leads to second-half slowdowns, causing the Terps to fall behind toward the end of the game.
Against the Buckeyes’ deep roster, any of these errors could prove fatal to the Terps’ season.
Maryland will fall short if it fails to reach its full potential over the course of 90 minutes. If it’s able to clean up its mistakes and take those small moments — ones like Jackson’s skill and cross — it just might have a chance.
“This is definitely the most resilient team I think I’ve ever been on, I think we’ve ever had,” Staier said.