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Climbing out from winless days, Meghan Ryan Nemzer’s return home gives hope to Maryland women’s soccer

Nemzer officially becomes the 10th head coach in Terps’ women’s soccer history.

Photo courtesy of Twitter

The vibrancy inside the Tyser Tower at Maryland Stadium was palpable Tuesday, as the University of Maryland introduced Meghan Ryan Nemzer as its new women’s soccer head coach.

“We’re starting a new era in our women’s soccer program,” Maryland athletic director Damon Evans said. “An era that I truly believe is going to be one when we look back and we’re going to say to each other, ‘Wow, what a remarkable run that we’ve made.’”

Evans had glowing reviews of Nemzer, who comes to Maryland from Rutgers, where she spent 18 years of her life and the last eight years as the Scarlet Knights’ associate head coach. In response, Nemzer, a native of Crofton, Maryland, blew away the room with her lofty expectations and how she plans to get there.

Rutgers had great success in Nemzer’s stint with the program, especially in 2021. The Scarlet Knights won the Big Ten — going undefeated in conference play — en route to earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and making it all the way to the College Cup. Rutgers’ season ended less than two weeks ago with a 1-0 semifinal loss to Florida State on Dec. 3, which speaks volumes to how quickly this all came together.

Nemzer noted it would take something special for her to leave Rutgers to start her own program, and her home state’s flagship program was certainly special enough. She dedicated her new gig to every past, present and future Terp, taking pride in how much the program means to the area.

The main takeaways from Tuesday’s introductory press conference? Nemzer is going to do everything she can to infiltrate the local talent into her team, but it is going to take time.

Already having started recruiting for the Terps this past weekend, Nemzer’s No. 1 priority is to keep the Maryland players home. She referred to the Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York area as a “sleeping giant” for talent. Nemzer realizes the importance of getting high-caliber talent to come to play for her, and she knows it starts right in her backyard.

Looking at the past United Soccer Coaches All-American teams only confirms Nemzer’s sentiment. Wake Forest redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Kaitlyn Parks — who recorded a shutout against Maryland on Sept. 12 — was named a Second Team All-American this season. Parks is from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and was the Calvert County Player of the Year in 2018, but left her home state for greener pastures.

Georgetown’s Julia Leas hails from Vienna, Virginia, which is only about a 25-mile trip from the University of Maryland campus. Leas was named a Third Team All-American in the spring but did not don the black and gold in doing so. Three All-Americans from each of the 2018 and 2019 seasons also came from the “DMV,” proving that the talent is there.

If Nemzer can secure that recruiting pipeline to come to College Park, it will be a major step in getting the program to where she wants it to be.

“This is the best time to be here,” Nemzer said of a potential recruiting pitch. “Buy stock now. Because it’s a good day to be here, tomorrow’s going to be a better day, and you’re going to be part of something that is going to change the culture. And for my local Maryland girls, be Maryland legends. Come home, change the program, change the culture... instead of being part of something, build something special that you’ll always come back to.”

Nemzer also added that she does not want to be known as the Maryland women’s soccer head coach but instead as Meghan Nemzer.

Concerning the current state of the program, Maryland has seen its better days. The Terps did not win a Big Ten game in each of the past two seasons, leading to the departure of former head coach Ray Leone. Maryland’s last conference triumph came on Oct. 24 at Michigan State, and the program has since suffered 19 losses and has only picked up five draws against Big ten foes.

Having spent years at Rutgers and being from the state of Maryland, Nemzer has seen the Terps’ ups and downs firsthand throughout the years. With that, she understands that Rome was not built in a day, and great things must grow over time.

“Give us time,” Nemzer said. “...I’ve had about 15 individual meetings in the last few days, and the thing that I’m so impressed about is that they all want to win. They want to be held accountable. They want expectations. They want the standards to be high.”

Rutgers defeated Maryland on Oct. 14, 5-2. The Scarlet Knights outshot the Terps by 16 and showed what the epitome of a championship-level team is on Maryland’s home field. The two programs are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, and that is OK.

The Scarlet Knights and Maryland both joined the Big Ten in 2014. Rutgers has finished with more wins than losses in every single one of those seasons, with its worst conference record being 4-2-5. Maryland has yet to achieve a record above .500 in Big Ten play, with its best Big Ten record being 5-5-1 in 2019.

Nemzer knows that she must have patience in building this roster into a contender, but both supporters and critics of the program need to understand that, too.

There will be some significant roster turnover from last season. Forward Emily McNesby, who scored two goals last season, has transferred to Delaware. Graduate student midfielder Hope Lewandoski, the heart of the team who fought through multiple serious injuries, has exhausted her eligibility.

Players like former All-Big Ten forward Alyssa Poarch, defender Malikae Dayes and forward Mikayla Dayes still have eligibility despite joining the program in 2017, a team spokesperson confirmed. However, it is unclear if they will return to the program at this point.

Still, with both Nemzer, the roster and the athletic department having high aspirations, there is the belief that Maryland will turn this thing around. It may not be now, but the blueprint is there.

“I always say, when you have a great culture, great people, great support staff, you become a great family,” Nemzer said. “Great teams become great programs. Great programs win championships, and that’s what we’re gonna do here.”