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Maryland women’s soccer vs. Wake Forest preview

The Terps travel to Winston-Salem to wrap up their nonconference schedule.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

Maryland women’s soccer hits the road to take on the undefeated Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Sunday afternoon.

The Terps are coming off back-to-back draws, most recently tying Penn this past Thursday, 1-1. It was only the second time the Terps have been outshot all season, as the Quakers had 18 shots to Maryland’s 13. The shot total of 13 is well below the Terps’ season average of 16.9 shots per game. Penn did an applaudable job neutralizing Maryland’s offense for most of the night.

Wake Forest is the last opponent on Maryland’s nonconference slate, with Sunday’s matchup being exactly one week away from the Terps’ Big Ten opener against Ohio State. The series history between the two old Atlantic Coast Conference foes is pretty even, with the Demon Deacons leading it, 12-10-2. The last time they met on Sept. 22, 2013, Hayley Brock’s goal was the difference-maker, pushing the Terps to a 1-0 upset win over third-ranked Wake Forest.

Sunday’s matchup will kick off at 1 p.m. and air on ACC Network Extra, which can be accessed through ESPN. Now, let’s take a look at a Wake Forest squad that may be the toughest challenge for Maryland so far.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-0-0)

2020-21 record: 5-7-2 (3-4-1 ACC)

Head coach Tony da Luz is in his 25th season leading the Wake Forest women’s soccer program. Da Luz is quite simply a legendary coach, compiling a 275-180-50 record at the university. He has led the Demon Deacons to a remarkable 19 NCAA Tournaments, establishing the program as a perennial national power. Before arriving at Wake Forest in 1997, da Luz had a successful five-year stint at the University of San Diego, being named West Coast Conference Coach of the Year in 1996.

The Demon Deacons have absolutely run through their nonconference schedule, winning all seven games while not allowing a single goal. However, the Terps will be the first power-conference opponent the team has played all season. Even though that is the case, Wake Forest was fortunate to have two exhibitions against No. 7 Clemson and No. 17 South Carolina before the season started. Wake Forest has yet to concede a goal this season, outscoring its opponents, 21-0. The Demon Deacons were slated to finish ninth in the ACC Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches Poll.

Players to know

Shayla Smart, senior forward, No. 20 — Starting all seven games this season, Smart has been by far the Demon Deacons’ most lethal goal scorer. The Florida native has scored six goals, including a hat trick against Loyola Maryland on Sept. 2. While a lot of Wake Forest’s contests have been blowouts, Smart has ultimately been credited with four game-winners.

Kaitlyn Parks, redshirt sophomore goalkeeper, No. 1 — Parks has been the lead goalie this year for the Demon Deacons, starting six games and posting a 6-0-0 record while not allowing a goal. While Parks has only had to make 12 saves all season, she is still responsible for an impressive six clean sheets. Maryland has peppered a ton of shots on goal all season, so Parks will surely be tested Sunday. Parks was the first player in ACC history to be announced as Defensive Player of the Week in consecutive weeks.

Jenna Menta, graduate student forward, No. 9 — Menta has made her impact felt in a major way since transferring from Georgetown. The 2020 Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Menta recorded five goals and eight assists for the Hoyas last season. Her offensive output has definitely carried over to Wake Forest, as her three goals are tied for the second-most on the team. Menta has also been key as a distributor, leading the team with four assists.

Strength

Everything. Well, at least so far. When a team outscores its opponents by a margin of 21 goals to zero, not much is going wrong for it. Wake Forest has been winning its games by an average margin of three goals, an incredible sign of offensive production. The same can be said for its defense, which impressively has not allowed a single goal through 630 minutes of soccer. Wake Forest is outshooting its opponents by an unbelievable ratio of 156 to 30.

Weakness

Have yet to be tested. With a start like Wake Forest has had, there are no genuine weaknesses you can take away unless you nitpick the film. While Maryland has not faced the gauntlet of non-conference opponents, Wake Forest definitely has not either. Despite its storybook start, the Demon Deacons are not even receiving votes in the United Soccer Coaches National Poll. Both teams should be facing their toughest test yet.

Three things to watch

1. Who will be playing goalkeeper for the Terps? Liz Brucia has been sensational for Maryland since transferring from Georgia. The Westfield, New Jersey product has put up three clean sheets, only allowing 0.89 goals on average. Even though that is the case, the Terps have welcomed back junior Madeline Smith, who was recently cleared to play. Smith shined in her debut Thursday, making five saves in 65 minutes of action against Penn. With this being the last game that Maryland can iron out its kinks before Big Ten play, it would not be surprising to see Smith — the Omaha transfer and a very capable goalie, herself — in net.

2. What will the lineup look like for the Terps? The injury bug has seemingly hit the Terps hard through seven games. Its most recent victim is defender Adalee Broadbent, who played every second this season before exiting after a hard foul in the 25th minute against Penn. Forwards Alyssa Poarch and Emily McNesby, the Terps’ two leading goal scorers, have also been out with undisclosed absences. Maryland has needed different players to step up lately, including freshman midfielder Mori Sokoloff, who scored her first career goal in her first start against Penn.

3. This is Maryland’s last nonconference game of the season. After going winless in the strictly Big Ten schedule in the spring, the Terps welcomed back nonconference competition for the first time since 2019. Even though it has been shorthanded, Maryland picked up results in six of its first seven games, sitting with a 4-1-2 record. With a result in Winston-Salem, the Terps can secure their best start since 2017. It will be interesting to see if head coach Ray Leone makes any minor tweaks to the lineup to see what may work ahead of conference play.