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Maryland women’s soccer vs. Penn State preview

The second half of Maryland’s Big Ten schedule begins under the lights Friday.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland women’s soccer takes the trip up north to University Park, Pennsylvania, for a Friday night showdown against Penn State.

“Well, Penn State’s always Penn State,” Maryland head coach Ray Leone said. “They’re a top-level team [no matter] how they’ve run across it in different games, you know. A lot of respect for their coaches and their team and it’s gonna be a great challenge to go up against them on the road.”

The Terps should be well-rested, having five full days between their last time out and Friday night. Maryland is still searching for its first Big Ten victory of the season and its first such victory since Oct. 24, 2019. It almost escaped Illinois with a triumph last Sunday, but gave up two goals in the final 30 minutes in a 2-1 loss.

Penn State has defeated the Terps each time the two teams have played since Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014. Maryland has had success against Penn State before joining the conference, including a 2004 NCAA Tournament victory.

Friday’s game is set to start at 6 p.m. and air on BTN Plus.

Penn State Nittany Lions 7-5 (1-4 Big Ten)

Spring 2021 record: 12-3-1 (9-1-1 Big Ten)

Head coach Erica Dambach is in her 15th season leading the Penn State women’s soccer program. Dambach is the face of a dominant program, leading the Nittany Lions to 14-straight NCAA Tournaments and 11 Big Ten regular-season championships. She also led the charge of the Nittany Lions’ first-ever national title in 2015. Throughout her time at Penn State, Dambach has compiled a 238-81-21 record.

Through 12 games, it has been a rollercoaster ride for the Nittany Lions. Penn State started 6-1, picking up marquee road wins at No. 13 West Virginia and No. 3 Virginia and climbing as high to No. 7 in the country. Since then, Penn State has lost four of its last five, struggling with the gauntlet of Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions were voted to finish first in the 2021 Big Ten Women’s Soccer Preseason Poll but currently sit in 11th place, tied with Illinois.

Players to Know

Note: Penn State has used the “+” symbol at the end of the term “senior” to indicate that said player is using their extra year of eligibility provided by the NCAA.

Sam Coffey, senior+ midfielder/forward, No. 17 — Coffey is excelling in her fifth year as a part of the Penn State program. Starting all 12 games, Coffey has scored four goals and tallied a team-leading four assists. Before transferring to Penn State for the 2019 season, Coffey was recognized as a 2018 First Team All-American at Boston College. Her production has clearly transferred over to the Big Ten, where she was named Big Ten Midfielder of the Year and earned First Team All-Big Ten honors in the spring.

Katherine Asman, redshirt junior goalkeeper, No. 26 — Asman has started all 12 games in goal for Penn State, playing all but one half against La Salle on Aug. 22. Although she got off to a good start, Asman has struggled as of late, allowing 10 goals in Big Ten play. Her goals-against average mark has skyrocketed to 1.39, which is not even in the top 150 in the nation. However, Asman has shown flashes of greatness in the past, going 11-3-1 and allowing less than one goal per game in the spring.

Ally Schlegel, redshirt junior forward, No. 34 — Schlegel came into this fall with high expectations and has lived up to them so far. Schlegel’s three goals and seven points rank third on the team, while she also leads the team with 11 shots on goal. The Parker, Colorado product had a stellar spring season, finishing with 11 goals and six assists en route to being named the Big Ten Forward of the Year and the 2020-21 Penn State Female Athlete of the Year.

Strength

Staying disciplined. Some of Maryland’s recent battles have featured a ton of fouls and a few yellow cards here and there. If Penn State plays the game to its liking, that should not be the case. Penn State has only picked up 67 fouls this season, the least in the Big Ten. The next closest team to the Nittany Lions, Rutgers, has picked up 19 more fouls than them this season.

Weakness

Goaltending and defense. Though Asman is a capable goalie, Penn State has had a hard time this year defending its opponents, especially in conference play. The Nittany Lions have allowed two goals per contest in Big Ten matches, something that will not allow them to find success if it keeps up. The team’s 0.733 save percentage currently ranks 13th in the Big Ten.

Three things to watch

1. How will the Terps offense look now that they are officially without Alyssa Poarch? Leone confirmed on Tuesday’s media call that Poarch is out for the season with a knee injury. Maryland’s best offensive player in 2021 despite only playing four games, Poarch added a different element to its attack. Now, the Terps will have to adjust knowing she will not be back this fall. In the four games Poarch played, Maryland went 2-0-2. Look for forwards Kori Locksley and Mikayla Dayes to step up in a big way.

2. Will Maryland look refreshed after a week off? As the second half of conference play commences, a week off between games was not only welcomed but somewhat of a necessity to Maryland. Outside of Poarch’s injury, the Terps were worn down. Maryland has played four full-length, double-overtime games this season, and any extra days of rest are needed. In addition, players like defender Adalee Broadbent, forward Emily McNesby and midfielder Hope Lewandoski have all had to miss games for injuries or undisclosed reasons.

“It’s important, it really is,” Leone said. “You know, it’s not a bye week...but, it’s important because we got a lot of people beat up, you can imagine, like even the ones that are playing are beat up. So, we need to recover, regenerate and then play Friday night.”

3. How does Maryland’s defense prevent another offensive barrage? In Sunday’s 2-1 loss against Illinois, the Terps were simply bombarded with chances from the opposing side. Illinois had 21 shots, 12 of which were on goal, and 14 corner kicks in only 90 minutes. If Maryland is going to pull off the upset against Penn State, that cannot happen again.

“We got to defend better,” Leone said. “Just quite frankly, just got exposed too many times wide and we’re just gonna have to defend a lot better than that if we want to be successful.”