Maryland women’s soccer forward Mikayla Dayes outmaneuvered a Georgia Southern defender and sprinted towards the goal. Another defender tugged on her jersey, but Dayes wouldn’t be stopped from giving the Terps a go-ahead goal.
She fought off the coverage, kicking the ball into the left side of the net for the score to put Maryland up 2-1. After some delay for lightning, the Terps held on to start the season in the win column.
“They want to prove themselves,” coach Ray Leone said. “To start out at Ludwig where it ended — it ended right here like nine, maybe ten months ago to the day — for us to get back out here and win this game was a big start for our season.”
The Terps outshot the Eagles 20 to four in the victory, only allowing one shot on goal to eight of their own. Forwards Alyssa Poarch and Dayes, who were both named Big Ten Players to Watch, scored the two goals for Maryland.
Last season, the team struggled immensely on offense, scoring just 0.84 goals per game, which was among the worst in all of women’s college soccer — 284th out of 333 NCAA programs. They only had four games in 2018 with at least two goals scored.
But eager to turn around a 4-10-5 record last season, Maryland got the game started as well as it could have hoped for, coming out of the gates firing to take the lead in the second minute of action. Poarch fired a shot into the bottom right corner of the net for a goal 1:13 into the contest on a pass from fellow forward Dayes, who intercepted the ball from an Eagles defender.
“We definitely talked about that, starting fast and getting aggressive,” Leone said. “It was exciting, it was fun. It gave us energy and it gave us a lot of belief.”
The Terps hadn’t scored a goal that fast since 2015, when they found the net 13 seconds into a contest against Navy.
Poarch figures to be the Terps’ leader on the offensive end this season. She was named a Big Ten Player to Watch following an impressive summer performance in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, where she led all players in points with 16 goals and five assists.
“Scoring a lot of goals in the summer league definitely helped my confidence and I just wanted to carry that through to this season,” Poarch said.
Later on in the first half though, Maryland made a crucial error. With Georgia Southern attacking close to the net, midfielder Malikae Dayes tried to quickly kick the ball out to safety but instead ricocheted it off her own teammate into the goal to tie the game at 1-1.
It seemed like the mistake might have come back to bite the Terps, but Malikae’s sister, Mikayla, came in clutch when the team desperately needed a boost.
Three things to know
1. Alyssa Poarch was an offensive spark for the Terps. In addition to scoring the first goal of the contest, the redshirt sophomore had six shots — three of which were on goal. She came really close to scoring twice after forcing turnovers as well.
“She’s a very exciting, dynamic, attacking player,” Leone said. “She stressed them right out of the gate, and stressed them at the end too.”
2. Maryland didn’t make the most of its opportunities. Though the team picked up two goals for the victory, it was poised to do a lot more. The Terps had 20 shots, as well six corner kick opportunities it couldn't capitalize on.
“I know we created a lot of opportunities, but there [were] definetely more goals we should have finished [on] tonight,” Mikalya Dayes said. “Working on that and carrying that throughout the season will definitely help us out.”
3. Mikayla Dayes’ aggression was key. Both of Maryland’s goals came off of forced turnovers by way of the junior. Dayes hounded every player she faced, and it paid off.