The past few weeks have been a continuous downhill slope for Maryland women’s soccer, and a jolt of some much-needed positive momentum for the Terps will once again be difficult to find as they head off to Columbus to take on No. 20 Ohio State on Thursday.
Head coach Meg Ryan Nemzer and company took the field this past Sunday with a full week’s rest to take on Penn State, with the hope of ending a four-game losing streak.
Early on, it looked like an energetic Terps squad was destined to break out for the win, but a familiar theme caught up to them. Despite outshooting the Nittany Lions for the first time in the series’ existence, the Terps couldn’t find the back of the net, en route to a 2-0 defeat.
Maryland has just 11 goals in 13 games, which ranks second-to-last in the Big Ten.
It entered the second half Sunday in striking distance, though, down just 1-0. Unfortunately for the Terps, an undisciplined start to the second half saw them concede their first penalty of the season and had graduate defender Malikae Dayes suspended for Thursday’s game after notching her fifth yellow card of the season.
Despite staying still at one win in the conference and 2-6-5 overall, postseason aspirations are not lost for Maryland, but a positive result Thursday is almost certainly needed.
The top eight teams in the Big Ten make the conference tournament, and seeds seven and eight both have two wins to this point. A win Thursday could put Maryland in a heated battle with Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois for the final two spots with just four games left in the regular season.
Ohio State is sitting pretty in the middle of the Big Ten table and the Terps will look to create some chaos in the conference at 7 p.m on Thursday. The game will be available for streaming on Big Ten Plus.
Ohio State Buckeyes (8-2-3, 3-1-2 Big Ten)
2021 record: 9-9-2 (4-4-2 Big Ten)
A NCAA bubble team in recent seasons, Ohio State has seemingly taken the next step this year.
Lori Walker-Hock is in her 26th year coaching the program, and behind a veteran defense and attack, looks destined to take her squad back to the NCAA Tournament.
A back line and attack of all but one upperclassmen has the Buckeyes sitting at fourth in the conference, a position which looks to be close to certain in a top-heavy year in the Big Ten.
After finishing nonconference play at 5-1-1, Ohio State began conference play with a loss at Rutgers and a tie at Michigan. Ever since, though, it has been near-perfect.
3-0-1 since, the Buckeyes have kept three out of four possible clean sheets and outscored opponents 11-2.
Coming off a competitive 2-2 draw against Nebraska, Ohio State will look to get back to its shutdown ways against a Maryland squad whose scoring abilities leave much to be desired.
Thursday’s matchup will be the first of three home games to end the final two weeks of the season for OSU.
Players to know
Emma Sears, senior forward, No. 19 — The three-year starter finds herself at the top of the stat sheet for the second time in her career, with her six goals and 15 points leading all Buckeyes so far this season. A member of the All-Big Ten second team in the spring 2021 season, Sears comes into Thursday’s contest with goals in back-to-back games.
Kayla Fischer, graduate forward, No. 2 — Fischer notched her second Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week award this past week after securing five points in games against Nebraska and Penn State. A second-year captain and five-year starter, Fischer is coming off a season in which she was nominated to the all-conference first team. Like her attacking counterpart in Sears, Fischer has been hot of recent, with goals in three consecutive games.
Talani Barnett, senior defender, No. 4 — The reigning Big Ten Defender of the Week leads one of the best back lines in the nation. One of three upperclassmen on defense, she’s helped the Buckeyes to an outstanding number of just 10 goals conceded in 13 games. Starting in every game and leading all outfield players in minutes, she’s the key piece of this defense that’s held opposing offenses at bay, with clean sheets in over half of the team’s games.
An intimidating defense. Ohio State’s back line is loaded with skill and experience. Three of its starters are seniors or above, with sophomore Sydney Jones being the one exception, and she comes off a season which earned her a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team. The Buckeyes have conceded just ten times this season, while Maryland’s offense has scored only eleven goals. It sets up for a perfect matchup for Ohio State, whose elite back line should have little problem keeping Maryland out of its net.
Top-caliber opponents. The games that Ohio State should win on paper, it does. When it comes to more seasoned opponents, the Buckeyes have struggled a bit. Both their losses have come against ranked opponents, and two of their ties have come in conference play against very good Nebraska and Michigan teams. While undefeated against unranked opponents, Ohio State is 1-2-1 against ranked teams. Given Maryland’s status toward the bottom of the Big Ten, this trend favors Ohio State.
Three things to watch
1. Maryland has never beaten Ohio State. In 10 meetings, the Buckeyes hold an 8-0-2 advantage, winning the previous four. The Terps have competed well in recent outings, though, with last year’s game in College Park coming down to a last-minute winner. In last year’s spring season, Maryland let a 2-0 lead slip away in what would end up being a 4-2 loss.
2. A sixth loss in a row would be detrimental to Maryland’s postseason hopes. Despite dropping five straight games, Maryland is on the bubble for the conference tournament thanks to this year being extremely top-heavy. With eight teams making the field, it looks like three conference wins will secure a spot in this year’s tourney. A positive result of any kind Thursday would put Maryland in 10th place at the minimum in all likelihood, and with its schedule set to ease up in the final three matches, every game is so important for the Terps.
3. Two teams with a defensive identity. Both Maryland and Ohio State play from defense to offense, with a strong mentality on preventing the opposition from getting chances. The Buckeyes won’t dazzle you with their scoring, but they’ll certainly frustrate an already discouraged Maryland attack. The Terps are in for a long evening if they can’t generate early on the attack.