Maryland women’s soccer’s season finale might have been headlined by head coach Meg Nemzer starting eight seniors and graduate students, but it was a bright, young star who helped the Terps end the season on a high note with a 3-1 win against the Purdue Boilermakers.
Freshman midfielder Ava Morales, who had not seen the scoresheet this season, spearheaded the offense Sunday with a brace in the opening 30 minutes.
In Nemzer’s first season as head coach, Maryland ends the season with back-to-back wins and a 4-8-5 overall record.
Very windy conditions at Folk Field in West Lafayette, Indiana, led to an offensive free-for-all from the onset.
The gusts turned simple balls into difficult plays, and the Terps’ season finale had a video-game feel to it. A lot of over-the-top balls from both sides saw the midfielders get involved and both keepers having to come off their line.
With both sides struggling to find their defensive footing early, Maryland took advantage of a turnover-filled affair early.
With twenty combined shots at the end of the contest, chances were flying left and right, certainly appealing any neutral fan.
But the essential absence of defense was costly early, with Purdue being the larger victim.
Morales’ first goal came just under six minutes in, with a heavy Terp press forcing a struggling Purdue back line into a turnover.
The Boilermakers, who finished their season conceding at least two goals in each of their final seven games, did not have much help in net Sunday, as Morales’ strike had no business going past freshman goalie Kailey Kimball. However, the wind curled the midfielder’s low drive from the far post to the middle of the goal, confusing Kimball.
With Purdue changing the momentum after the opening goal, graduate attacker Alyssa Poarch looked like she had drawn the Terps’ first penalty of the season in the 24th minute. But the challenge in the box was ruled fair by the ref, and Purdue came right down the field to equalize.
Not even a minute later, freshman forward Kayla Budish took a beautiful through ball from junior midfielder Emily Mathews and chipped it over the head of Maryland’s Emory Wegener, who got her first start in three games.
Mathews finished her 2022 campaign leading the Boilermakers in assists with seven.
Purdue got a jolt of energy after the equalizer and would end up outshooting Maryland in the opening half, but unlike much of this season, the Terps converted on their chances today.
Morales found the ball in open space in the 30th minute and looked like a natural goal scorer. Dicing her way to just outside the box, she unleashed a low rocket to the bottom-right corner of the net, giving the Terps the lead back.
The scoreline was 2-1 heading into the locker room, but the opening 45 minutes could have seen six goals. An incredibly relaxed defensive structure luckily did not hurt the Terps, who also took six fouls, including two yellow cards.
A more disciplined and better-structured second half helped the Terps close the deal Sunday, but there were scares along the way.
Purdue’s leading attack option, Gracie Dunaway, took three shots in the latter 45 minutes, but wasn’t able to find a good look despite being on runs behind the defense on a couple of occasions.
Goaltending blunders haunted the Boilermakers for a second time, with redshirt junior Emma Tompkins, who subbed in for Kimball at the half, seeing a shot from Poarch go off her hands and into the top of the net in the 66th minute.
The Terps’ second of three shots on goal in the half proved to be the insurance tally, while Poarch’s fourth goal of the season saw her exit Maryland’s program on the highest of notes.
While Purdue would get seven shots off to end the half, Wegener was only forced to make one save, and the Terps held on for the uplifting victory.
Three things to know
1. Ava Morales was the hero. Getting the start after being a substitute for much of the season, Morales was electric Sunday. Netting two goals in the opening 30 minutes, the freshman midfielder had chances for a third and was a monster in possession. A cornerstone piece of Maryland’s future, she showed why Nemzer trusts her.
2. A positive end to the season. After seven straight losses, Maryland ends the 2022 campaign with two wins in a row. After defeating Indiana on Thursday, the Terps continued to build on their momentum with Sunday’s offensive outburst. Maryland finished the season with three Big Ten wins, its highest mark since 2019.
3. Maryland was the beneficiary of costly mistakes by Purdue. The Terps may not have deserved two of their goals, with Purdue’s goalkeepers putting up a lackluster performance. After Kimball conceded twice in the opening half, Tompkins came in. Alyssa Poarch’s insurance tally was also at the center of the goal. Ultimately, the Terps took their chances and there’s no such thing as a bad shot when the conditions are unpredictable.