Madison Krakower, Lauren Wrigley and Ava Morales set up behind the ball at a free kick position with only a few minutes remaining in the match Saturday. Maryland women’s soccer, down 1-0, needed a creative play to get through the Rutgers defense.

Krakower, who initially looked like she would send the ball into the Scarlet Knights’ penalty box, stopped just short before swinging her leg. Instead, Wrigley lightly tapped the ball to a nearby Morales, who spun over her right shoulder and rifled a left-footed strike toward the top left corner of the net.

Morales’ shot missed high and wide of the target, the last promising opportunity Maryland women’s soccer had to even the score.

The Terps were held scoreless for the sixth straight game and had three fewer shots Saturday compared to last week’s match against Michigan. But in another indicator of progress, the opportunities they had were more dangerous and came closer to finding the back of the net.

Coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer credited her better chances to her offense’s improved communication skills.
“I was definitely more intentional, spent some more time with the frontline and everything like that,” Nemzer said. “I think also they’re understanding how to play with each other a little bit more.”

Morales and defender Kennedy Bell teamed up to create a scoring chance.

[Maryland women’s soccer remains winless in Big Ten play following 1-0 loss to Rutgers]

Bell played a quick pass to Morales in the attacking third. Morales, with her head up, passed the ball ahead. There, a Maryland attacker launched a right-footed shot alone on the left wing. Her attempt was deflected, but still gave Nemzer’s squad a promising opportunity as three Terps followed the shot into the box.

Bell said the Terps’ chemistry has improved significantly during recent matches.

“Our trust in each other has definitely built since the beginning of the season, since the last game even,” Bell said. “I think to continue that is just trusting each other more but also getting into ‘I know you can score, so believe that you can score.’”

The Terps’ young talent also aided their offensive output.

Midway through the second half, Lisa McIntyre spotted fellow freshman Hannah Schapiro cutting behind the Rutgers backline.

McIntyre lofted the ball to Schapiro, who only had a defender and the goalkeeper between her and the net. Schapiro, eyeing the keeper surging forward off her line, chipped the ball with hopes of skipping it into the net.

But her shot missed high, falling on top of the net for a Scarlet Knight goal kick.

“I know at one point, we had six or seven freshmen on the field,” Nemzer said. “But I was excited to see [it]. I thought that one that Hannah got … was gonna go in.”

[Maryland women’s soccer’s goal to qualify for Big Ten tournament is falling out of reach]

Freshmen had three of Maryland’s five shots Saturday.

The Terps were also able to get to the ball first against Rutgers more than at Michigan. Rather than watching the ball fly over their heads, Maryland players managed to force their bodies in front of the ball, many times before Rutgers did.

Standing in the box, Peyton Bernard tracked and followed a cross from the left sideline. The freshman perfectly timed the ball’s point of contact, heading it toward the goal before either defender could settle and clear it out of danger.

Defender Katie Coyle felt Maryland’s attackers had a spark that nearly helped them capitalize Saturday.

“Everyone had a lot of fight to them,” Coyle said. “We talk a lot about getting in the final third and having that mentality that you’re going to be the one to put it in the back of the net, and I think a lot of people showed that.”

The Terps have taken offensive steps. Their next one — actually scoring — is their most important. Maryland will look to find its first goal of Big Ten play, and first since early September, on Thursday at Nebraska.