WHO: Purdue Boilermakers @ Maryland Terrapins
WHAT: Women's soccer B1G Conference game
WHERE: Ludwig Field, College Park, MD
WHEN: Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 7:00 pm
Just past the halfway point of the 2014 soccer season and not quite at the halfway mark of the Big Ten conference schedule, the Maryland Terrapins women's soccer squad looks like a team still seeking to define its identity and find a way to win games consistently. The Terps opened their league schedule at home win-loss-tie. On their first road trip, they managed win-loss.
After struggling to score for much of the season, the Terps showed some encouraging signs of life with an early goal in the game at Iowa and breaking out for three scores against Nebraska. However, the Cornhuskers fast, physical, and talented forwards found ways to expose weaknesses - particularly in launching counter attacks - in Maryland's usually strong defense a tactic the top teams in the league are likely to try exploit unless it's promptly addressed.
The Purdue Boilermakers come to College Park tied for ninth in the conference one slot behind the Terrapins. With an early logjam taking shape in the middle of the conference standings, the game takes on added importance for both teams.
Boilermakers on the pitch
At 8-4-1, Purdue had a solid start to their 2013 season and looked to be headed to the Big Ten Tournament and a possible NCAA Tournament bid as well. However, after a home win over Northwestern to improve their record to 3-2 in conference play, the Boilermakers lost their last six games to finish 3-8 in the league and 8-10-1 overall falling short of any postseason play.
Perhaps based on the manner in which they finished the 2013 campaign, the preseason Big Ten Coaches poll projected Purdue to finish last in the fourteen team league.
Possibly en route to mirroring their 2013 season, Purdue opened the 2014 season with a more than respectable 6-2-1 record dropping only a pair of 1-0 decisions first to Miami University and later to eighth ranked Penn State. Their conference record sat at 3-2 when their offense disappeared down a scoring vortex that might look familiar to Terrapins fans. Not only have the Boilermakers dropped three straight conference games, they have been shutout in each of those games including twice at home.
Players to watch
Maddy Williams, #12, sophomore, forward. This should sound familiar to those who read the preview of Maryland's game at Nebraska. Like the Cornhuskers' Jaycie Johnson, Williams led the Boilermakers in goals and points scored as a freshman. Williams, who scored ten goals and added six assists in 2013, has not missed a beat as a sophomore racking up five goals and five assists. She shares two other traits with Johnson: At 5'8" she is a tall striker, and she was named by the B1G coaches as a preseason player to watch.
Erika Arkans, #77, freshman, midfielder/forward. Arkans enters the game as Purdue's second leading goal producer with four. Her production has likely been a pleasant surprise for her coach as Arkans was not a highly regarded recruit. She typically tries to spread defenses by attacking wide.
Alex Hairston, #16, senior, forward. Hairston makes her way into this spot not because of her output thus far this season but perhaps because of the lack of it. Hairston is the second leading returning points producer from the 2013 Boilermakers - a season in which she equaled her career highs in goals with six and assists with eight. Through the first 12 games this season, she has only one goal and two assists. Also considered a preseason player to watch, she could be primed for a breakthrough.
Regular readers of this series will not be surprised to learn that, once again, the Terrapins and the Boilermakers are breaking new ground. This is yet another first time meeting for the two programs. For the Terps, the game is important not only in defending their home field but in getting a win that could move them up toward the top third of the conference before they face the B1G's top two squads, Penn State and Wisconsin, on the road over the last half of the season.