Maryland women’s soccer finishes its season in Ann Arbor, Michigan against the Michigan Wolverines Sunday.
In their first game of the two-game road trip, the Terps lost 2-0 to Michigan State on Thursday. It was a frustrating loss for head coach Ray Leone and his squad, only registering nine shots in the game. Forward Ava Cook scored two first-half goals en route to the victory, and she was the best player on the field all night. Goalkeeper Liz Brucia kept the Terps in the game, making three saves in a scoreless second-half performance.
The Terps are still searching for their first Big Ten as they enter their last game of the season, but a tough opponent stands in their way. Michigan was ranked as recently as last week but fell out of the poll this week. The Wolverines currently sit in third place in the Big Ten and have clinched a spot in next week’s conference tournament.
Sunday’s regular-season finale is set to kick off at noon and will air on BTN Plus.
Michigan Wolverines (11-3-3, 5-2-2 Big Ten)
Spring 2021 record: 5-3-3 (5-3-3 Big Ten)
Head coach Jennifer Klein is in year four at the helm of the Wolverines’ women’s soccer program. In her time with Michigan, Klein has compiled an impressive 42-21-8 and brought the Wolverines to the NCAA Tournament in 2019, winning two games. Before arriving in Ann Arbor, Klein had a four-year stint at Southern California as an assistant. She was a part of the Trojans’ 2016 national championship team. This is Klein’s second stint as a head coach, as she was the youngest head coach in NCAA soccer at UNLV from 2010-11.
Klein has put the Wolverines in a prime position to continue playing well into the postseason. In addition to its standing in the Big Ten, Michigan ranks 20th in the RPI per NCAA.com. In its last game, Michigan picked up a huge 2-0 road win over 24th-ranked Penn State. The Wolverines come into their match with Maryland in good form, winning three of their last four.
Players to know
Raleigh Loughman, senior midfielder, No. 18 — The San Diego native has been Michigan’s best offensive player this season, leading it with six goals, four of which are game-winners, five assists and 17 points. It is remarkable because she has only done it on 24 shots. Loughman is a two-time Second Team All-Big Ten honoree and should be on pace for another conference honor this season. Loughman’s goal against Penn State on Thursday went down as the game-winner.
Nicki Hernandez, fifth year midfielder, No. 20 — Coming off a First Team All-Big Ten season in the spring, Hernandez has continued to be a focal point for Michigan this season. Hernandez is right behind Loughman with five goals and has also picked up three assists on the season. Hernandez has started every Big Ten contest this season.
Hillary Beall, fifth year goalkeeper, No. 1 — Beall has been excellent this season, allowing less than one goal per game, giving up 0.87 on average. She is coming off a shutout against Penn State, her fifth shutout of the season. Beall has left her mark in her five years with the program, receiving Third Team All-Big Ten honors in each of the past two seasons.
Generating shots. The Wolverines have fired off 328 shots this season, the most in the Big Ten. Michigan’s 315 shots prior to its match against Penn State ranked sixth in the entire nation. Maryland may be an especially favorable matchup for Michigan, given that the Terps have allowed 17.4 shots per game in Big Ten play.
Staying onside. While it clearly has not haunted the Wolverines, it is hard to find a glaring weakness in a postseason-bound squad. Michigan leads the Big Ten with 67 offsides calls, the most in the conference by 20. Playing a compact defense, Maryland can make a play here or there that could lean Michigan offside and affect the game. Overall, this is a very strong Michigan team with minimal weaknesses.
Three things to watch
1. Liz Brucia will get the start in goal. Leone confirmed this on Thursday’s postgame media call. Goalkeeper Madeline Smith earned her second start of the year, but Brucia checked in for her to begin the second half. Ever since Smith was cleared on Sept. 9 against Penn, the two have mainly split time in the net, each playing a half. However, Brucia’s strong performance against the Spartans earned her the start in the final game of the season.
2. Can Maryland find that elusive Big Ten victory? By the time Sunday comes around, it will mark exactly two years since Maryland’s last triumph in conference play. It would be poetic if the Terps were to end the drought on that exact date, but Michigan will surely make it a tough task. In seven tries, Maryland has never beaten or earned a result against the Wolverines.
3. How will Maryland perform knowing it is its last game of the season? With last season’s addition of Big Ten Regional Weekend due to the coronavirus pandemic, Maryland has played in some sort of postseason environment the past two seasons. However, that will not be the case against Michigan. This will be Maryland’s last game of the year no matter what, and the only time those words a good thing is when it is the national championship. As they have done all season long, Maryland needs to play with pride and do everything it can to earn a result and spoil Michigan’s postseason standing.