Maryland women’s soccer has been searching 665 days to try and find itself in the win column again.
Up one goal and controlling all momentum in the first half, Maryland found itself with a throw-in deep in Temple territory. Forward Anna Carazza threw a textbook pass which bounced off the body and onto the foot of transfer forward Kori Locksley. On what seemed to be a set play, Locksley quickly swept the ball to forward Alyssa Poarch — the assist getter on Maryland’s first goal — just inside Temple’s penalty box. Poarch took one dribble to her left and lifted the ball with her left foot past the stunned Temple goalkeeper Kamryn Stablein to give the Terps a 2-0 lead.
Poarch’s goal was just a snapshot of the most complete performance Maryland displayed in a very long time in a 3-0 victory over Temple in College Park.
“They performed really, really well,” Maryland head coach Ray Leone said about his squad. “Their effort was fantastic, their attitude was great, their mentality was great. The play will get better as we keep playing, but, what we’ve been through, to have this tonight, I’m really happy for them.”
The Terps are back from a short offseason, as Thursday’s action was only four months removed from their most recent game last spring, marking the first time women’s college soccer has seen two seasons in one calendar year.
Both teams took a knee prior to kickoff, just like we saw last spring, right before Temple began with possession.
It was a sloppy start for both teams in the early going, as Temple’s high pressure was causing some confusion for Maryland’s defenders. The defense had to figure out their problems rapidly, as it was Georgia graduate transfer Liz Brucia making her Maryland debut in goal. The Owls earned an early free kick opportunity from far out, but Maryland was able to negate it right away. The Terps turned Temple’s missed chance into the first corner kick of the game just under one minute later, but Temple was able to clear it before the ball could reach the net.
Maryland seemed to gain some momentum from the first corner, though, and started to keep the ball predominately in the Owls’ zone. Poarch, one of three Terps on the 2021 Big Ten Women’s Soccer Players to Watch List, recorded the first shot of the game, although she sailed it high over the net.
The Terps continued to pressure Temple’s backline as Poarch made a beautiful pass to Kori Locksley just inside the 18-yard box. Locksley had a golden look at the net but Temple goalkeeper Kamryn Stablein was in perfect position, making the save on her first opportunity of the game.
Two more Maryland corner kicks followed, and it appeared the Terps took the lead off the first, but the ball bounced off the bottom of the cross bar and out of bounds for another corner.
It continued to be all Maryland for the rest of the first half, changing the tide from its jumbled opening on defense. Just over 20 minutes into the half, the Terps had seven shots — three of which were on goal — and four corners to Temple’s zero in both categories.
Even though Maryland was continuing to control possession, Temple had a phenomenal chance to strike first with 18 and a half minutes to play. Forward Hailey Gutowski was speeding down the left side of the pitch and made a beautiful cross that could not be controlled and was quickly taken away by the Terps.
Temple’s mishap soon turned into Maryland’s fortune. Just under 30 minutes into the half, Poarch, who had been playing an outstanding match so far, found herself surrounded by not one, but two Temple defenders about 25 yards out from the goal. Poarch won the battle, escaping both of them and kicking it to an open Loren Sefcik just in front of the penalty arc. Sefcik, who checked into the game for Emily McNesby halfway into the first, took one touch and powered it into the bottom left of the net, giving Maryland the 1-0 lead.
It was Poarch’s brilliant goal just five minutes later that extended the Terps lead to two. Maryland ended the first half not only leading 9-1 in shots and 9-0 in corner kicks, but 2-0 on the scoreboard.
“It feels really good,” Poarch said. “You know, having a fresh start coming off of last season, not being injured, that means a lot...getting in the good vibes, good mood.”
The second half commenced with Maryland in possession and rain starting to come down at Ludwig Field. The Owls started off the period with some urgency, creating a few sliding chances towards the goal on a newly wet field.
Temple earned its first corner kick seven minutes into the half, and seemed to have an amazing chance to cut Maryland’s deficit in half. The Terps could not clear the ball, leaving a wide open shot for forward Emily Kavanaugh just inches in front of the net. Kavanaugh chipped the ball just high, however, and the game remained 2-0 in Maryland’s favor.
Maryland responded to Temple’s chance with its 10th and 11th corner kicks around the 57-minute mark. Locksley and forward Mikayla Dayes had chances to extend the Terps’ lead to three, but the Owls’ defense was able to hold steady.
With 30 minutes to play, Poarch had a great chance put in another goal of her own. Stablien, however, made a fantastic diving stop, forcing Maryland’s 12th corner of the match. Temple was able to use a header to clear the corner, but it was apparent that Maryland was continuing to threaten.
As the match entered the 68th minute, Leone gave his star forward Poarch a breather, swapping her for midfielder/defender Madison Oracion.
Running out of time, Temple had to capitalize on any chance they could get. In the 73rd minute, forward Teri Jackson had possession deep in the Maryland zone. Maryland star defender Malikae Dayes made a great play, forcing the ball away from Jackson and giving Temple a corner, which Maryland subsequently cleared without Brucia getting tested.
“[The defense] played very well,” Sefcik, the Terps’ first goalscorer, said. “I think we definitely have things to work on, but I think we really came out and came out strong and defended with our hearts and really show them who’s capable.”
With just over thirteen minutes to play, Gutowski was handed a yellow card, the first real discipline of the game for either team. Frustration was building for the Owls, as they had to be aggressive facing a two-goal deficit.
As the Terps preserved their two-goal lead, they were able to put the finishing touches on the match in the 83rd minute. A big boot upfield by midfielder Olivia Hicks connected with forward Emily McNesby, who chipped it from way outside of the box over Stablein, giving the Terps a 3-0 lead.
Maryland took control of this match early and never looked back, registering 14 shots and holding Temple to a lowly three. After a long two years, the Terps go down as victorious once again.
“It means a lot,” Leone said. “I mean, just the first goal meant a lot. I tried to keep myself in the moment and I think they did too, because you can’t forget it. You can’t, it’s impossible to forget. But now, it’s turning a new leaf and we’ll go from here.”
Three things to know
1. Despite its choppy start, Maryland dominated the first half. The Terps’ three defenders looked a little shaken up to start the game and Temple’s high pressure caused early problems. However, Maryland was able to weather the storm and take over from there. The Terps earned a whopping nine corner kicks in the first half, and it seemed as if every single one of them was threatening. Stablein was tested often for Temple, and despite some of the nice plays she made in net — such as punching away Maryland’s fourth corner kick — she could not do enough to stop Maryland’s attack. Poarch played a clinical first frame, scoring a goal and recording an assist.
2. The Terps were able to win shorthanded. Clarity to Maryland’s goalkeeper situation was provided as soon as the lineups were put out. Georgia graduate transfer Liz Brucia, who played sparsely for the Bulldogs in her four years there, was listed as the starter while junior Nicole Kwoczka and redshirt sophomore Kennedy Tolson were not even listed as available. Tolson was Maryland’s most played goalkeeper by far in the spring, while Kwoczka played over 250 minutes herself. In addition, starting midfielder Hope Lewandowski remains out another 2-3 weeks with a knee injury, per the BTN Plus broadcast. Forward Keyera Wynn, who led Maryland with two goals last season, was also not available due to injury. All things considered, Maryland put forward a spectacular performance.
3. Maryland’s newcomers made their impact felt. Brucia, despite not having to make a save, put forth a strong performance in goal, picking up her first clean sheet as a Terp. Toni Domingos, a 2020 All-American at Notre Dame Catholic, was all over the place with three shots in 47 minutes in her college debut. Locksley had arguably the best debut out of anyone, recording an assist and two shots on goal, massively elevating Maryland’s offense when it needed it most.
“[They performed] really good,” Poarch said about Locksley and Domingos. “They made a huge impact on the field. I know Kori and I have chemistry going way back...that was really exciting to finally get to play back with her and seeing Toni do really well tonight was pretty exciting.”