With a window of space ahead, Ava Morales picked her head up, eyeing the goal in the distance. George Mason defenders closed on her midway through Thursday’s match, but before they arrived, the Maryland midfielder booted the ball toward the net, her shot flying over the goalkeeper for her second goal of the year and fourth in her career.
She’d increase those marks with another tally against Binghamton Sunday — a rare game where Morales was in the Terps opening lineup.
She’s started in just two of eight games but still leads Maryland women’s soccer with three goals as it enters Big Ten play on Friday at Penn State. She’s accounted for a third of the team’s total tallies this season and has scored in three consecutive matches – the first Maryland player since 2016 to do so.
Her tally against George Mason sealed a 2-0 triumph and her successful penalty kick on Sunday secured a 1-0 finish over the Bearcats. The Terps are currently on a three-game win streak.
Morales contributed to that success with a stellar performance across the pitch. The sophomore from Atholton came off the bench Thursday before Sunday’s start, her first since the season opener at American.
“I think it’s not easy, but I think we all have the same goal, we’re all just trying to win the game,” Morales said of coming the bench. “You just have to take advantage of what time you do get and I’m not worrying about myself, I’m worrying more about how I can help the team.”
Terps coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer often calls on Morales to fill in as an offensive and defensive presence in Maryland’s midfield. Nemzer has repeatedly called Morales her “utility player.”
The coach praised her midfielder for accepting her role and performing well in practices.
“Obviously everybody wants to start,” Nemzer said. “But she understood that she needed to clean up a few things, and I give her all the credit. I always say in training is where you earn your minutes, you don’t earn your minutes in the game.”
Morales notched two goals in 416 minutes as a freshman, totaling eight shots. She’s played 325 minutes this year and has already registered three goals on 11 shots.
Her success comes from her ability to strike the ball with power and precision. Morales has set five of her shots this year on goal and leads the team in shooting percentage.
Her impact extends past her offensive effort.
In Sunday’s victory, Morales provided support up and down the field, pressing Binghamton’s defensive line high. Her keen eye allowed her to read attackers and shift her positioning to force unwanted passes and potential turnovers – mistakes she converted into dangerous offensive counters.
She moved the ball from the midfield to the attacking third, providing the Terps promising opportunities up the field. Morales received a leading pass from Kennedy Bell in the open field early in Sunday’s game.
She immediately spotted Terps forward Kat Parris running into space and sent a through ball that created a possession near the goal.
The midfielder’s production, both on and off the scoresheet, could boost her from being Nemzer’s best reserve to the Terps’ starting 11.