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Climbing out from a winless season, Maryland women’s soccer is off to a pitch-perfect start

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The Terps’ offense has exploded en route to a 2-0 start.

UMTerps

After finishing the condensed, strictly Big Ten schedule, coronavirus riddled spring season 0-10-2, it would have been easy for Maryland women’s soccer to give up.

Instead, the Terps returned 96% of its spring roster — 26 of 28 players — and are off to a dominant 2-0 start on the year.

“You think about the stress that we had and the difficulties that we went through, maybe a lot of people would say that’s it, and they didn’t sort of return that many,” head coach Ray Leone said at the start of the season. “...We never turned on each other, and that would have certainly been easy, easy, easy to do.”

Two games into the young season, Maryland stands at 2-0. The offense has burgeoned for five goals in 180 minutes, quickly nearing the spring total of eight goals in 12 matches.

The stellar performances have been headed by the electric forward trio of Alyssa Poarch, Kori Locksley and Emily McNesby.

Poarch has been sensational, seemingly drawing multiple defenders every time she touches the ball. Her two goals, 11 shots and five shots on goal each lead the Terps. Locksley has been an extremely welcomed addition for Maryland, transferring from Auburn for her final year of eligibility. Locksley has one assist and one goal that came in the opening minutes of the match against George Mason. McNesby has recorded a goal and added a beautiful assist on Locksley’s goal against the Patriots.

Midfielder Loren Sefcik and forward Mikayla Dayes have also made their impacts felt on offense with one goal and nine shots between the two of them.

Leone has already put the spring season in the rearview mirror and is squarely focused on this fall’s great start.

“I’m not thinking about it personally,” Leone said. “I’m thinking about this team, just seeing them excited, smiling and having fun and playing the game, playing to win. To start off like this, you couldn’t ask for more.”

Maybe the most impressive part of Maryland’s start is that they are doing it shorthanded.

Hope Lewandowski, graduate student midfielder and the Terps’ lone postseason honoree in the spring, is still out for some time with a knee injury. Goalkeepers Kennedy Tolson and Nicole Kwoczka, who both played significant time in net last season, have not been listed as available. Forward Keyera Wynn, Maryland’s leading goal scorer in the spring, and Alexis Hogarth, an anchor of Maryland’s defense in 2019, have both yet to see the field as well.

Just as remarkable as Maryland’s offensive performance has been its defensive counterpart. The Terps have yet to give up a goal and that is a credit to their so-far flawless defense and goalkeeping.

Defenders Oliva Hicks, Adalee Broadbent and Malikae Davis have played every single minute this season. The three of them have orchestrated Maryland’s backline to perfection and are building chemistry with starting goalkeeper Liz Brucia each passing minute. Brucia has come over as a graduate transfer from Georgia, where she played sparsely over four years and recorded two clean shutouts in two starts.

Leone has sung the praises of his defense through two games, consistently mentioning how they have played as a unit rather than individuals.

All cylinders are firing through two contests for Maryland. While George Mason and Temple are not Big Ten-caliber opponents, the dominance of the two victories after such a tough season cannot be taken with just a grain of salt.

Regardless of the level of the product the Terps have put on the field, they will still have their doubters as their season continues. Some pundits still see Maryland as the winless squad they were last season and the preseason 14th-ranked team in the conference. The Terps will need to keep the foot on the gas and keep winning despite any extenuating circumstances.

“We still got a lot of work to do,” Leone said. “We’ve only been together for two or three weeks, but this team’s got a lot to prove. You know, a lot of people have counted us dead and buried...that’s all I can say.”