Coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer isn’t afraid to put her youngsters on the field. Among Maryland women’s soccer’s 15 freshmen, seven have already seen action in the team’s first four matches of the season.
Nemzer is excited to see her team’s youth and to give her newcomers minutes. Combined, the freshman class has played 1,372 minutes in four games after Nemzer started five first-year players in the last two games.
“The ball doesn’t know that you’re a freshman,” Nemzer said.
Maryland’s freshmen class ranks No.11 in the nation and first in the Big Ten, according to TopDrawer soccer.
Headlining the new class is Kennedy Bell, who has played every minute on the backline this season. The Charlotte native entered Maryland as the No. 34 ranked recruit by Top Drawer Soccer.
Bell’s blazing speed and contained ball control allow her to travel up the field in a hurry, eyeing promising attacks towards goal.
Her first collegiate shot on goal began with a takeaway from an attacker in the midfield against James Madison. A push with the ball at her feet to beat two defenders and her eyes on the target eventually brought her to the top of the goal box. The shot, blocked by a defender, displayed her prowess for taking control from the defensive to offensive zones.
Nemzer believes Bell is one of, if not the, best left back in the country, praising her for becoming more vocal as she gains experience on the pitch.
“I wish I had 11 of Kennedy,” Nemzer said. “She is definitely a leader of that freshman class and even upperclassmen, they respect her.”
The Terps have scored five goals this season, with three of those coming from freshmen. Lisa McIntyre, Maryland’s current goal leader, scored two in Sunday’s draw at James Madison. Her ability to track down the ball and unwillingness to give up on plays when the ball looked to be controlled by the goalkeeper, allowed her to eventually find the back of the net.
McIntyre leads the team with five pointsafter picking up her first assist against Navy.
Nemzer sees McIntyre in future starting lineups after her Sunday performance.
“She’s been very impactful in training,” Nemzer said. “She’s playing some of her best soccer. We knew that she could score goals but she can also defend right now… we’re gonna need a lot out of her this season.”
Maryland has recorded three assists this season, all three of which have come from freshmen — McIntyre and Peyton Bernard. Bernard, who leads the team with two helpers, is averaging 67 minutes and has added eight shots as a part of the offensive line.
Bernard’s depth in finding seams to pass the ball and ability to charge at defenders with power pushes the Terps’ momentum in the attacking zone.
Maryland was awarded a free kick in the ninth minute against Navy. Bernard, using her speed to charge up the right side of the field, was tripped by a defender and drew a penalty. Bernard used her awareness off the free kick to shoulder the ball to Catherine DeRosa in the goal box, a pass she then nailed into the back of the net.
Nemzer noted Bernard, a native of Rockville who stayed in Maryland to “make it cool,” is fitting that statement.
“When she committed here, she spoke about becoming a Maryland legend,” Nemzer said. “She really has changed the landscape for us with the recruiting piece of it.”