WHO: Indiana Hoosiers @ Maryland Terrapins
WHAT: Women's soccer B1G Conference game
WHERE: Ludwig Field, College Park, MD
WHEN: Sunday, October 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm
WATCH: In person at Ludwig Field
Sunday's Maryland women's soccer game against the Indiana Hoosiers marks, depending on your perspective, either the end of the first half of the conference season or the beginning of the second. It's the seventh game of a thirteen game season and, while it may seem a bit early to begin scoreboard watching, Sunday features a number of games that could impact where Maryland finishes in the conference.
The first order of business, however, is for the Terrapins to continue their recent offensive surge, defend their home field, and put together back to back conference wins for the first time this season. Two aspects of the season have likely frustrated Maryland's fans.
Heading the list would be the Terps' struggles in finding ways to score. Shutouts in four of the season's first eight games attest to that. But with six goals in the last three games, Maryland looks to have found some offensive rhythm and, Terrapins fans hope, have put that issue to rest . The second would be the inability to string together a series of wins. Thus far, the Terps' conference season has looked like this: W-L-T-W-L-W. Sunday's contest provides Maryland with an opportunity to lay that issue to rest as well.
After facing some of the top teams in the conference, it's a reeling Indiana squad that comes to College Park. The Hoosiers have dropped three straight games - most recently a 1-0 loss at Rutgers. Indiana is currently twelfth in the conference with their only win coming at cellar dweller Northwestern.
Hoosiers on the pitch
The Hoosiers finished fourth in the Big Ten in 2013 with a 6-5 record. Overall, Indiana finished 15-7-1 splitting games in both the B1G Tournament - beating Illinois and losing to Nebraska - and in the NCAA Tournament where they lost to North Carolina after a 1-0 win over DePaul.
The Hoosiers have, of late, been among the weaker teams in the conference. Their appearance in the conference tournament marked the first time they had reached postseason play since 2007. With some significant losses to graduation, the preseason coaches' poll dropped them to a projected tenth place finish.
As noted above, Indiana comes to Maryland on a three game losing streak. The Hoosiers are 5-8 on the season with six of those losses coming in conference play. Their win at Northwestern represents their lone conference win to date.
Indiana's performance thus far likely reflects the loss of their top two scorers from 2013 as well as the graduation of their goalkeeper who picked up a program record nine shutouts last season. These losses are reflected in both their scoring - down from 1.87 to 1.08 goals per game - and, to a lesser extent, in their defense where they concede 1.38 goals per contest.
Players to watch
Jessie Bujouves, #2, junior, midfielder. Bujouves is having a breakout season for the Hoosiers. Not named as a preseason player to watch, she leads the team in goals with five and points with eleven. Her five goals nearly doubles her career total of three coming into her junior campaign.
Kayla Smith, #7, freshman, forward. Smith was ranked as the nation's #103 recruit by TopDrawerSoccer.com and has had a productive start to her college career. She is currently second in points with seven coming on three assists and two goals. The latter total also ties her for second on the team with Abby Smith.
For the first time since the Rutgers game, the Terps are playing a conference foe with whom they have a history albeit a limited and contextually ancient history but it is a history nonetheless. The good news for Terrapins fans is that Maryland has never lost on the pitch to Indiana. The irrelevant news is that the teams have played only once before - a game that resulted in a 2-0 Terps win in 1994.
Sunday's game is important for Maryland in several ways. Not only does it represent a chance for the Terps to put back to back wins together but it comes in a stretch where they are playing some of the teams at the bottom of the conference standings. Maryland needs to put some wins in the bank and continue to build their confidence before they finish the season on the road at conference powerhouses Penn State and Wisconsin.
For the scoreboard watchers among you, the key games for Maryland will be Purdue at Rutgers, Illinois at Northwestern, Iowa at Michigan, and, to a lesser extent Penn State at Wisconsin. In addition to a Terrapins win, fans should hope for upsets in the first two games (Purdue and Northwestern) and for the higher ranked teams (Michigan and Penn State) to win in the last two though the latter all but concedes the conference title to Penn State.