Lauren Wrigley sprinted upfield with the ball at her feet in the 16th minute against Ohio State Sunday. The junior found defender Kennedy Bell racing towards the penalty spot and forced a pass into the box.
The ball was intercepted by a Buckeye, and eventually trickled out for a corner kick. But Bell’s scoring opportunity was a new wrinkle — a product of schematic changes that confused a prolific Ohio State team.
Maryland lost the match 1-0 — a much better result than the Buckeyes’ 7-0 rout of the Terps last season.
Coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer’s decision to put players in new roles provided more offensive opportunities while limiting impact on defensive organization. The Terps entered Sunday’s match with a fresh new lineup to confuse the offensive-minded Buckeyes.
Maryland’s coach felt she needed to move talented attackers into more offensive roles.
“What we needed to do was get them higher up the field,” Nemzer said. “I also feel like we have some really special defensive players. So how do they get exposed a little bit more on that piece of it and how do we get the players up higher?”
One of the Terps’ most impactful switches moved Bell into a midfield position.
Nemzer has consistently praised Bell’s powerful presence on the backline, where she’s started every game this season. The freshman’s new role Sunday allowed her to maintain her defensive prowess while adding more chances toward the net.
In the 45th minute, Bell read a potential Buckeye shot from the top of the box. She swiped the ball away as an attacker wound up to shoot. As the half waned, Bell charged towards midfield with the ball then fed a through ball to the speedy Peyton Bernard along the left side.
“Based off what we see on scouting and how we get Kennedy on the ball higher or more often,” Nemzer said. “That’s something that is going to be expected. Kennedy Bell is a special player, so wherever she is on the field, you got to know where she is.”
Catherine DeRosa also found herself in a new role Sunday, playing more on the defensive side. The senior has started at midfield in all but one match this season.
DeRosa found success in her first look on the backline, picking up open Buckeyes as they surged toward goal.
In the 41st minute, DeRosa tracked back with numbers moving toward the box. She picked up a charging Ohio State attacker in the right side of the box and cut off her window at the goal.
The Buckeye tapped a pass to the top of the box. DeRosa sprinted to the new player, putting her body in front of the ball to close off an angle to the net. DeRosa’s efforts forced a poor shot high and wide of the net, awarding the Terps a goal kick, and proved she was comfortable despite the position change.
“Whatever role’s needed is the role I’m going to play,” DeRosa said. “I think everybody on this team has that mentality. Whatever the team needs we’re going to do and that’s exactly what I did today.”
Nemzer’s decision to adjust her lineup allowed new insight into the offensive third. The Terps’ offensive organization worked more tight and constructed, rather than relying on downfield speed. Maryland registered 10 shots Sunday, two of which were on goal.
“I think our chances definitely progressed,” DeRosa said. “I think we created more quality chances actually on the frame of the goal. And now we just have to continue to plug away and continue to push to put one in the back of the net.”
Maryland’s defensive structure forced the Buckeyes to hit shots from distance rather than shoot closer to the frame.
The Terps held Ohio State to one goal on 25 shots. Nemzer planned her formation based on the Buckeyes’ ability to score inside the box, the coach said.
“We wanted to sort of absorb that and force them to shoot a little bit higher,” Nemzer said. “I thought a lot of their shots came from 22, 20 yards out, so when you got a goalkeeper like Liz, I’ll take that versus a breakaway.”
Nemzer said the possibility of a formation similar to Sunday’s in the future is likely after seeing her players thrive in new roles, .
“I do believe that Ohio State for the most part couldn’t figure out how to break it down,” Nemzer said. “I’m proud of the team and the game plan they executed.”