It took Maryland women’s soccer a while to get its first victory. But after five matches without a win — and the last three ending in draws — the Terps finally prevailed Sunday with a 1-0 shutout against Towson.
Coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer credited the win, in part, to the five substitutions she made. Three Terp substitutes played more than 45 minutes and brought depth and fresh legs to the field, Nemzer said.
“They’re listening, they’re applying,” Nemzer said. “It wasn’t just the 11 on the field; but if you saw it, it was all 33 really emphasizing what we needed to do to get locked in for the last 10 minutes.”
Ava Morales entered the match in the 30th minute. She’s come off the bench in five of six games this season, averaging over 33 minutes per match as a consistent substitute.
Nemzer believes Morales has greatly improved in training over the past two weeks, making her a go-to sub in the midfield.
Morales’ tally ended up as the game-winner. With defender Kennedy Bell speeding down the left side of the field in the 53rd minute, Morales strode in support of a promising offensive push. Once in the box, she took a pass from Bell and laid the ball into the back of the net.
“I’ve [told] her, ‘Don’t be happy with where you are and continue to push’,” the coach said. “I did say that she was gonna get one [goal] so I was very excited … It was coming because she was working hard.”
Kelsey Smith, another sophomore substitute, entered the game in the 23rd minute. She’s logged 198 minutes this season, all as a reserve. Nemzer applauded the forward’s speed and willingness to attack defenders.
Smith showed her skills in the second half against Towson. She tracked back to a charging defender, slid and stole the ball as the Tigers attempted to break into uncharted space.
In only her second extended outing this season, Halle Johnson came off the bench in the 27th minute to join the backline. Johnson supplemented a defensive unit of Bell, Katie Coyle and Caroline Koutsos. That group has been a bright spot for Maryland — notching three shutouts — and Johnson moved fluidly with the other defenders. She played 64 minutes, repeatedly shutting down attempted crosses into the box.
Towson eyed a dangerous attack in the 50th minute, sending a perfect through ball up the right side of the offensive third. Johnson, in a foot race, went for the ball with full force, sliding to the turf to knock the ball away, bring the attacker down and send the ball out for a corner kick.
“We were able to see that Halle could jump in for Eden and we still stayed strong,” Bell said. “The coaches really pushed us, working on that last 10 to 15 [minutes] if we’re up and how to manage when we’re down.”