William Kulvik had barely seen the field before being handed the reins as a defender against Big Ten rival Michigan.

Wearing the Maryland men’s soccer’s gleaming-white jerseys, Kulvik contributed to the suppression of the Wolverine’s offense and was not on the field when they scored their only goal. 

In his next appearance, clad in a thin pink headband, Kulvik played all 90 minutes against High Point and helped hold the Panthers to zero first half shots. 

Kulvik had previously only played five combined minutes through Maryland’s first five games of the season before racking up 163 minutes in the past two games. The freshman and native Norwegian has impressed with his athleticism while defending and he’s been rewarded with more and more minutes.

After the Terps’ 2-0 shutout victory over High Point, coach Sasho Cirovski and fellow defender Alex Nitzl had nothing but praise for the young defender.

“I thought last game he grew from the beginning to the end of the game and I thought today he had another strong game,” Cirovski said. “He’s a very athletic, tenacious defender and this is why we brought him in.”

[Own goal helps Maryland men’s soccer take down High Point, 2-0]

But Kulvik had a very large learning curve coming into Maryland’s soccer program. That includes numerous setbacks such as the language barrier, a few nagging injuries and the rust he’s had to kick off after numerous months away from the pitch.

“He’s a young man that spent a good part of the last 14 months without playing much soccer because things were shut down in Norway and he also had to overcome a couple of injuries,” Cirovski said.

Kulvik emerged on the Stabaek IF II club in Norway and played for the U-17 Norwegian national team. Cirovski says he was initially recruited off of video.

One other Terp defender relates to Kulvik’s situation: Nitzl, who joined Maryland in 2020 as a freshman from Germany.

“It’s hard to adjust in the beginning, it’s a new language, it’s a completely new environment and he didn’t know anyone,” Nitzl said. “Now he’s playing and [it’s] incredible his impact on the game … he’s so athletic it helps a lot, he wins a lot of headers.”

[After 35 games, Justin Harris bagged his first goal for Maryland men’s soccer]

Kulvik seems to have made a measurable impact in a slightly different starting scheme that Cirovski has employed since allowing 20-plus shots against Georgetown. The Terps have started four defenders and three midfielders the past two games instead of their regular three defenders and four midfielders. 

“It’s evolved into playing to the strengths of our team right now,” Cirovski said. “I think so far, so good but we’re not married to anything except how we want to play.”  

The additional defender seems to have assisted Maryland into allowing a lone goal in the past two games and will be even more important against Ohio State on Friday, after the Buckeyes beat a ranked Akron squad on Sept. 15. 

With Kulvik managing to stand out in two consecutive wins, it seems the Terps’ hidden gem will prove vital as they head deeper into intense conference play.