Maryland women’s soccer hasn’t won a match in almost a month. The Terps have failed to score and have given up 14 goals since entering Big Ten play.
Coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer’s preseason goal was to make the Big Ten tournament, despite her squad being tabbed to finish 11th out of 14 teams in the conference’s preseason poll. Hopes of completing that objective are beginning to slip away after last week’s 5-0 and 4-0 losses to Michigan State and Michigan, respectively. The Terps have just one point after five conference games.
The Terps sit tied for last in the conference and Nemzer said her team needs to “get back to basics” in hopes of securing a top-eight finish and making the Big Ten tournament.
Maryland has secured a postseason berth once since joining the Big Ten in 2014, but was quickly bounced in the first round of the 2019 conference tournament. The Terps were once postseason regulars, making four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances between 2009 and 2012.
“Like 10 years ago, we were the number one seed in the NCAA tournament and [the team] are aware of that,” Nemzer said. “I think we’ve done a really good job of bringing the alumni back and teaching them what the expectation is and what the standard needs to be.”
Maryland still has a long way to go to fulfill those ambitions. Nemzer’s squad struggled to hold up the ball in the attack to let potential scoring opportunities develop and transition from defense to offense in last week’s road losses.
Peyton Bernard dispossessed a Michigan player around midfield line in Sunday’s battle. The freshman picked her head up and played a quick pass to a nearby Kelsey Smith. Smith looked to drive into the penalty box, but took too many touches, allowing defenders to crowd her and reclaim the ball.
Maryland registered eight shots Sunday — better than its three attempts against Michigan State — but only two were on target.
“It’s not tactics, like we did get shots off, it’s individual battles,” Nemzer said. “I thought that when we stuck to the game plan, the spaces were on. Obviously I would have liked to put a couple on more on the back of the net.”
Three Big Ten teams currently rank in the top 25 nationally. Nemzer said the conference is one of the strongest in the country and her young team is navigating challenges against teams that have played together for multiple seasons.
Competing in the conference starts with winning individual battles, Nemzer said. For example, Maryland struggles to win balls in the air, allowing the opponent to settle and create attacks up the field.
“It’s a physical conference, it’s a talented conference,” Nemzer said. “We got to start competing. It’s not okay to not compete.You could get away with that, maybe in nonconference, but you can’t do that in conference.”
Maryland will continue the search for its first conference win Saturday when it faces Rutgers, Nemzer’s former school. The Scarlet Knights currently sit two spots above the Terps in the Big Ten standings with a 1-3-1 conference record.