The Terrapins started conference play last Thursday and took a 1-0 loss to a very strong Rutgers team. Maryland now has a record of 5-4, and 0-1 in the Big Ten. The competition lets up this week, though not drastically, as the Terps hit the road to face Northwestern and Illinois.
The Wildcats enter this week with a 7-1-2 (1-0-1) record, notching a 1-0 win over Purdue and a 1-1 draw with Indiana in the past week. Defensively, Northwestern is top notch. The team ranks 6th nationally in scoring defense, having allowed just four goals in their 10 games.
Sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Clem has started since day one of her freshman year, and after setting a school record in goals-against in 2014, Clem is anchoring another great defense this year. The defense is young, consisting of Clem, two other sophomores, and a pair of freshmen. Nonetheless, they've played stifling defense and secured a shutout in six of their 10 games.
Offensively, the Wildcats' goal scoring has come from a number of places. Four players are tied with a team-high two goals, and nine different players have scored altogether. That being said, junior forward Addie Steiner is running away with the team lead in points, assists, and shots taken.
Steiner has four assists to go along with her two goals, and has taken 42 shots on the season. Nobody else has more than one assist, and Steiner's eight points are double that of the players in second place. Midfielder Niki Sebo is second on the team with 16 shots, and Steiner has 17 shots on goal. If Maryland is to contain Northwestern's offense, they must limit Steiner's opportunities.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois also enters this weekend with an impressive record, currently 6-2-1. However, they're 0-1-1 in conference after playing to a scoreless draw with Indiana, and dropping a 3-1 game to Purdue. They play #11 Rutgers Thursday before hosting the Terrapins.
The Fighting Illini are led by sixth-year forward Jannelle Flaws, whose player page on the Illinois athletics website has 30(!) honors listed. Flaws was named to three All-American teams last year, led the NCAA in goals in 2014, and has been named the Big Ten Forward of the year each of the past two years. She is on the MAC Hermann Trophy Watchlist for the second consecutive season, and is living up to the hype early.
Flaws is tied for ninth in the nation with eight goals, and is seventh in total points with 20. Like Steiner at Northwestern, Flaws has more shots on goal than any of her teammates have shots. Last year, Flaws scored Illinois' lone goal against Maryland, coming on a close-range indirect free-kick earned when Terps keeper Rachelle Beanlands illegally handled the ball. Outside of that fluky goal, Flaws took just three shots in the game, and the Terrapins will once again look to keep Flaws at bay this year.
Illinois is allowing a respectable one goal per game in 2015, and have junior goalkeeper Claire Wheatley starting in net for the third consecutive year. In last year's matchup Wheatley stopped a pair of Terrapins penalty kicks, including one with under a minute to play in double overtime, to help secure the Illini a 1-1 draw. Illini Senior defender Hope D'Addario was named to the Big Ten's list of players to watch, and has lived up to the expectation thus far, anchoring the Illini defense while racking up two goals and three assists, earning her the second place spot on the team in points.
The Terps have their work cut out for them this week, facing off against teams that were picked to finish right around them in the Big Ten preseason poll. The defense will be tested with two fierce scoring threats in Addie Steiner and Jannelle Flaws, and whether the offense is able to figure out two relatively stout defenses remains to be seen.
After losing its opener, it's crucial that Maryland picks up some points in conference on this roadtrip. The team plays Northwestern Thursday at 7 PM, and Illinois Sunday at 2 PM. The matchup with Illinois will be streamed on BTN+.