Maryland women’s soccer is back in action for the first time since April 8 as they host the Temple Owls Thursday evening in College Park.
“You’re still trying to figure out your system, a substitution type of pattern,” head coach Ray Leone said. “These are the things that we’re working on. You really can’t assess your game fitness until you play a game that matters.”
For the Terps, it was a much shorter offseason than usual. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Maryland will commence its second season in a calendar year as women’s college soccer returns to its normal fall schedule.
Maryland’s opening game against Temple will be the first of eight non-conference games and the first one it has played since Sept. 15, 2019. With the university’s updated COVID-19 protocols, the Terps will welcome back fans in full capacity for the first time since 2019.
Thursday’s season opener will begin at 7 p.m. at historic Ludwig Field and will air on BTN Plus. Let’s take a look at how Temple will match up against the Terps.
2019 record: 4-5-1 (2-5-1 American)
Head coach Nick Bochette will embark on his second season in charge of the Temple women’s soccer program this fall. Hired in January 2020, the condensed season this past spring marked Bochette’s first real game action as head coach of the Owls. Bochette has had some success prior to Temple, winning America East regular season and tournament championships in his 3 years at Albany.
Despite Temple’s last match being fewer than 140 days ago, the Owls’ roster underwent a massive shakeup. A total of 12 newcomers will be a part of Temple’s squad this year, compared to only five for Maryland. Temple is tabbed to finish eighth out of nine teams in the American Athletic Conference’s 2021 Preseason Coaches Poll.
Players to Know
Kamryn Stablein, senior goalkeeper, No. 43 — A native of Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania, Stablein returns to Temple as a strong force in the net for the Owls. While starting all 10 games this past spring, Stablein put up an 0.800 save percentage and three shutouts, allowing an average of 1.47 goals against. In addition to being named AAC Goalkeeper of the Week twice last season, Stablein will have the honor of being co-captain for the Owls for the second season in a row.
Eren Theiller, graduate student midfielder, No. 5 — Theiller is arguably the most highly-touted of Temple’s additions. A four-year starter and two-year captain at Binghamton, Theiller put together a great career in the America East. A former conference foe of her current head coach, Theiller dominated for the Bearcats, earning First Team All-Conference and All-Championship Team honors her senior season. Theiller played mostly center back at Binghamton, making her a dynamic addition to the Owls’ midfield this season.
Róisín McGovern, sophomore defender, No. 4 — Serving as a co-captain aside Stablein and graduate student Marissa DiGenova, McGovern brings a lot of promise to Temple entering her second season. The Ireland native started all 10 games for the Owls in her freshman campaign, earning AAC Rookie of the Week on two separate occasions. McGovern was tied for the team lead with two goals in the spring despite being a defender.
Goaltending. Stablein was one of the AAC’s best in the spring, making 60 saves, good for six per game. Both of those marks ranked first in the conference by quite a significant margin. The next closest team was Tulsa with only 44 saves and 5.5 per match. In addition to her aforementioned three shutouts, Stalbien’s 0.800 save percentage ranked second in the entire conference.
Offensive production. Temple’s offensive output earlier this year ranked towards the bottom of the conference in pretty much every major category. Its 7.80 shots per game ranked last in the AAC along with its mark of only 0.90 assists per game. The Owls also only managed to score 1.10 goals on average, ranking third-worst in the conference behind Cincinnati and East Carolina. Furthermore, Temple brings in a bunch of new pieces this season, which may only amplify its problems.
Three things to watch
1. Who will be the Terps’ starting goalkeeper? This is probably the biggest question that has been lurking outside of the program in the days leading up to the opener. However, no one outside the team knows the answer to it. Just like the team as a whole, the goalkeeper room was rattled with injuries during the spring season. Junior Nicole Kwoczka played the majority of the early minutes before losing her season to injury. Redshirt sophomore Kennedy Tolson took over most of the workload from there, but sophomore Krista Varrichione also earned a modest amount of playing time.
“We have a lot of keepers…,” Leone said. “Two of them are not going to play at all...the competition is great. They’re getting better every day.”
2. Which unlikely sources will step up for Maryland? The Terps know what they are getting with the likes of players such as the Dayes twins and Alyssa Poarch who have starred for them in the past. However, certain players will have to step into bigger roles and take on the responsibility to fill the holes left by former star midfielders Anissa Mose and Sydney Staier. While Leone cited senior midfielder/defender Madison Oracion as someone who had a good preseason, everyone has to be ready when their number is called upon.
“They have to be all ready,” Leone said. “They all gotta be ready to come in off the bench, to start. That’s been the thing, is that we’re not picking starters. There’s people that are starting the game, but they’re not starters. We can continue to get that across to our team that we need everyone, and so our goal is to be better together.”
3. Can Maryland earn its first victory in 665 days? It has been no secret that the past year and a half has been tough for the Terps’ women’s soccer program. The team went from having its first winning season in 7 years in 2019 to subsequently having its 2020 season postponed and then going winless. The Terps have a long climb back to get to where they were before the pandemic, but it can all start with a win at home against what was an average Temple Owls team in the spring.