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Maryland women’s soccer vs. Nebraska preview

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The Terps play the second of a three-game Big Ten homestand.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland women’s soccer continues Big Ten play against the Nebraska Cornhuskers Thursday night.

“They’re very athletic, they’re very committed,” Maryland head coach Ray Leone said on Nebraska. “They’re always a difficult team for anyone in the Big Ten to play. So we’re gonna have to be skillful and we’re gonna have to move the ball.”

The Terps are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Ohio State, falling 2-1 to the Buckeyes on an 89th-minute game-winner. Forward Kori Locksley put in the game-tying goal in the 63rd minute, but the Terps struggled offensively, only registering seven shots in the entire match. Although Maryland could not get a result, it was a positive fight on Senior Day in front of its biggest home crowd this season.

Nebraska and Maryland have not played since 2019, but the Terps are still searching for their first-ever win against the Cornhuskers. Nebraska leads the series history 3-0, with the last meeting being a 2-0 Huskers home win on Oct. 11, 2019.

Thursday’s contest will kick off at 7 p.m. and air on BTN Plus. Now, let’s learn more about the 2021 Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-5, 0-1 Big Ten)

Spring 2021 record: 2-5-3 (2-5-3 Big Ten)

Head coach John Walker is in his 28th season at the helm of the Nebraska women’s soccer program. Walker has had great success at the school, compiling a record of 337-178-51 including this season. While Walker led a 10-year stretch of at least one NCAA Tournament victory from 1996-2005, the Cornhuskers have only qualified for two postseasons since, with their last appearance coming in 2016. He is a three-time conference Coach of the Year, winning twice before Nebraska’s move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten.

The Cornhuskers had a tough start to Big Ten play, losing 3-1 at home to Purdue despite the game being tied until the 71st minute. Nebraska enters College Park on a three-game losing streak, as its non-conference slate wrapped up with back-to-back defeats to Arizona State and Arizona. In the 2021 Big Ten Women’s Soccer Preseason Poll, the Huskers clocked in at No. 12, just two spots ahead of the Terps.

Players to know

Reagan Raabe, sophomore forward, No. 7 — Raabe has been Nebraska’s most productive offensive player this season, leading the team with six goals and 13 points. A Big Ten Preseason Player to Watch before this season, Raabe scored the Huskers’ lone goal in its Big Ten opener against the Boilermakers. Raabe led the team with 14 shots in her freshman campaign. She has started all 17 games she has played in her career.

Makinzie Short, junior goalkeeper, No. 1 & Sami Hauk, sophomore goalkeeper, No. 91 — The two netminders have split time this season, with Hauk playing 417 minutes and Short playing 411. Short got the nod in the Big Ten opener, making four saves and allowing three goals. Hauk has the edge in statistics, with a 3-1 record and 0.86 goals allowed on average, and has already won Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Week twice this season. Short, on the other hand, has a 1-4 record and 1.31 goals allowed on average. It is worth keeping an eye on who will make the start against the Terps.

Eleanor Dale, sophomore forward, No. 21 — Along with Raabe, Dale was one of three Cornhuskers that was named a Big Ten Preseason Player to Watch by the conference. Through nine games, Dale is second on the team in both goals with four and assists with two. In the spring, she started the first five games of the season before going down with a season-ending injury. An England native, Dale was a member of the country’s U17 and U18 national teams.

Strength

Goalkeeping. This is not an overwhelming strength of the Huskers, but goalkeeping has surely kept them in some games. The tandem of Short and Hauk has combined for 4.11 saves per game, the fourth-most in the Big Ten. In addition, Hauk’s aforementioned save percentage ranks third among Big Ten goalies. Even though Nebraska has lost more games than it has won thus far, its flashes of goalkeeping success, including three shutouts, have been a positive thus far.

Weakness

Scoring goals. Nebraska had a great start to the season, scoring 10 goals in its first three games, all of which were victories. Since that point, the Huskers have slowed down, going 1-5 in that stretch. Nebraska has scored only six goals in that span, with half of that output coming against Loyola Chicago on September 5. The Huskers’ mark of 1.778 goals per game could be worse, but it is their recent production — or lack thereof — that is the weakness here.

Three things to watch

1. Who will we see in net Thursday for the Terps? Going into the season, the goalkeeper situation was a bit unclear for those outside of the program. The doubts were almost immediately put to rest. Graduate transfer Liz Brucia has been outstanding for the Terps, starting every game and posting three shutouts. However, junior Madeline Smith has excelled off the bench in the past three games after being cleared from injury.

The two keepers have split playing time in each of those games, and Leone went as far as to say last Sunday's performance was the best he had ever seen from a goalkeeper tandem. Leone indicated that this will continue for the time being, as both players have been great for Maryland.

“There’s no reason not to do it, they’re doing amazing,” Leone said. “It keeps them both fresh, keeps both of them ready. At this point, if we picked one, the other one is not going to be ready. We’re fortunate that we have two fantastic goalkeepers, so we’re gonna keep riding this thing the way it is right now.”

2. Look for Maryland to make some offensive adjustments. The Terps started the season with an extremely explosive offense. In the past four games, that has not been the case. Maryland’s shot per game total is down to less than 15 while its scoring average of 1.44 goals per game is 13th in the Big Ten. While part of the dip could be to injuries to players like forwards Alyssa Poarch and Emily McNesby, there could be some strategic issues within the offense as well. The Terps excelled attacking from out wide against Ohio State and look for that to continue.

“Please go wide...[the old] go west young man, go west, I just want them to go wide, to go wide,” Leone said. “So, that is really the focus and then to get the runs in the box and then hit a quality service. So, we have done it, but just not enough times...that’s basically what we’ve been doing all week.”

3. How will the Terps bounce back from their loss in the Big Ten opener? A consistent theme for Maryland since its August 26 comeback win over Richmond has been its ability to fight back from adversity. Even though it was a disappointing outcome for the Terps to not pick up a result after conceding late against Ohio State, there is no doubt the team will be ready to bounce back against Nebraska. Looking to avoid an 0-2 conference start, Thursday is a big game for Maryland.

“We have 90% of the season left,” Leone said. “...We shouldn't be discouraged at all. We’re only three points behind everybody that won, and that’s it. So, we get three points, then we’ll catch the ones that lose and we’ll be three points behind the people that won twice and that’s it.”