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Women's soccer preview: Facing Indiana and Purdue

With the season winding down, Maryland will need to make a Cinderella run to reach the Big Ten tournament. That run has to begin this week on the road against Indiana and at home against Purdue.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The Terrapins' (5-9, 0-6) losing streak extended to six games last week, and they are still searching for their first point in Big Ten play. With just two and a half weeks remaining in the season, the conference standings are becoming more clear and we can take a look at the mountain that the Terrapins have to climb.

Maryland, as you can probably guess, does not control its own destiny. They have a slim chance at making the eight-team Big Ten tournament and they will need to be nearly flawless. Maryland had their October 4 matchup with Michigan State rescheduled to next Wednesday, so while most teams have four games remaining, those two teams have five. Illinois currently sits in 8th place with nine points and the Spartans are one point behind them.

Illinois' next match is against the Iowa Hawkeyes, who are 0-6-1 in conference play, so it's unlikely the Illini will remain on nine points. At the least, Maryland needs to finish the season 4-0-1 to have a chance at reaching the Big Ten tournament, but there's a very real possibility that not even a 5-0 finish can propel the Terrapins into the postseason. Nonetheless, if the Herculean effort is going to be made, it will start this week against Indiana and Purdue.

Indiana (3-7-5, 0-4-3)

The Hoosiers enter the week 12th in the conference, two spots and three points ahead of Maryland. Indiana has actually had worse struggles on offense than the Terrapins have this year, scoring just eight goals over their 15 games. That 0.53 goals per game average is good for 318th out of 326 Division I teams.

With that lack of production up front, one would (correctly) assume that the Hoosiers have tried out a multitude of options at forward. Seven forwards have started at least one game this season, and there's no real way to predict how many of their forwards will be deployed against Maryland. That being said, Hanna Johnson, a freshman who's scored one goal this season, is very likely to play.

Despite those struggles to score, Indiana has managed three draws in conference, two of which were scoreless affairs. Their defense is anchored by goalkeeper Sarah Stone, who impressed in limited playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2012 but saw no action the year after. She returned as the full-time starter last season, and has remained in that position since. Indiana's defense has surrendered 1.47 goals per game, nearly triple their average goals scored, which is never a good sign for a team. Maryland has faced a rather tough Big Ten schedule thus far, but it begins to ease up with the Hoosiers.

Purdue (7-6-1, 2-4-1)

Purdue has seven points, which is good for 10th place in the Big Ten. They play Penn State on Thursday before traveling to Ludwig Field to play Maryland on Sunday.

Purdue was pegged to finish last in the conference during the preseason but have outperformed that thanks to the stellar performance they've gotten from two junior forwards. Maddy Williams leads the Boilermaker attack with seven goals and four assists, good for 18 points. Williams was named to the Big Ten Players to Watch list this season and has already outscored her six goal, six assist season from 2014.

The second prong of the attack is Hannah Leinart, who has seventeen points thanks to her six goals and five assists. That pair make up over half the team's goals and half the team's points. Williams and Leinart have taken 38 and 36 shots, respectively, and sophomore midfielder Andrea Petrina falls right in the middle with 37 shots, though she's produced a much-less-impressive three goals from them.

Purdue has let up 1.43 goals per game, with sophomore Erika Yohn starting all but two of the team's games in goal and racking up a .727 save percentage. There's some experience in front of her, with a pair of seniors in Makaela Nellams and Kim Love starting on defense. The midfield features redshirt junior Melissa Casella and sophomore Nicole Robertson. Both have scored a goal and added some assists (two for Casella, three for Robertson).

The Boilermakers are a stronger team than Indiana but are still a step down from most of the teams that Maryland has played in conference so far. The likelihood of reaching the Big Ten tournament is slim, but not out of the question for this Terrapins team.

Thursday's match is on the road in Indiana at 7:00 PM and Sunday's home game against Purdue is scheduled for 2:00 PM. Both will be streamed on BTN+.