After dropping its fourth straight game courtesy of a 4-0 thrashing at home against Michigan State last Sunday, Maryland women’s soccer head coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer admitted a tough, condensed stretch of games had been taking a toll on the Terps.
“There’s some injuries that we’re having right now and the travel probably stacks up quite a bit,” Nemzer said. “Michigan State was the best team we’ve seen in the Big Ten. It’s a combination of everything right now.”
Maryland had kept every game competitive this season, with all its losses coming within one goal before its loss against the Spartans.
With just one win in the Big Ten, the Terps have five games left and will likely need to take two or three of those to have a shot at a spot in the eight-team conference tournament.
The Big Ten teams ranked eight through 12 each have one conference win at the moment.
Now, at 2-5-5, the Terps will look to take advantage of their timely week-long break before Sunday’s showdown against Penn State.
Maryland’s late season push begins Sunday afternoon, with kickoff set for 1 p.m against the Nittany Lions.
The game will take place at Ludwig Field in College Park and can be streamed on Big Ten Plus.
Penn State Nittany Lions (7-3-2, 2-2-1 Big Ten)
2021 record: 12-8-1 (5-5 Big Ten)
It’s been a tale of two seasons for Penn State, which entered conference play with just one loss and a top-10 ranking.
Named as the co-favorite to win the conference in the preseason coaches poll, the Nittany Lions ranked as high as No. 6 in the nation following a 2-0 victory against No. 4 Rutgers.
Ever since that huge win, they have seen themselves fall into a worrying stretch of games. The Nittany Lions are riding a two-game losing streak, with losses against Michigan State and Ohio State. Provided, those two squads are currently in the top four in the conference, but it’s a pair of disappointing results.
Penn State now finds itself seventh in the conference and takes on Michigan and conference-leading Wisconsin after its visit to College Park.
Now unranked, this very talented and experienced team will look to get back on its feet. Penn State is guided by 19th-year head coach Erica Dambach.
Players to know
Penelope Hocking, senior forward, No. 18 — The USC transfer left the Trojans after three seasons and breaking the program’s all-time goal-scoring record. It had been a slow start to the season for Hocking, but she has heated up as of late, earning a Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week award. With 13 shots, three goals and six points in her last four games, she’s been a bright spot in a difficult stretch for Penn State.
Mieke Schiemann, sophomore defender, No. 25 — The Berlin product is a second-year starter on this back line and has been a revelation this season. Racking in the honors, she’s taken home two conference and one national defender of the week awards. Helping her team to six clean sheets, she also ranks third on the team in goals with three.
Ally Schlegel, redshirt senior forward, No. 34 — Schlegel scored over 10 goals in her first three seasons with the Nittany Lions and is up to five this season, which leads the team. A seasoned veteran, she’s started in all but two games over her four-year career. If Penn State is to get back to its winning ways, it’ll start with Schlegel finding the back of the net.
Sharing the wealth. Despite not having one player with more than five tallies, the Nittany Lions have had 11 different goal scorers. While not having a few dominant forces, they have tremendous attacking depth and their goal-scoring comes from up and down the field. With seven attackers, three midfielders and one defender finding the back of the net, Penn State’s goals can come from a variety of players.
Road play. With a 5-1-1 record at home, Penn State has struggled to find success on the road. Holding a 2-2-1 away record, it has yet to secure a Big Ten win away from State College, with an 0-1-1 conference mark. Also, it has been shut out three times on the road, a feat which it hasn’t fallen to at home. Coming into Sunday’s matchup, Penn State has gone two straight away games in conference without a win.
Three things to watch
1. Both teams are looking to get out of slumps. While Maryland’s four-game slump is of more concern than Penn State’s two-game slip, any late-season slip in conference play comes with massive impacts. Sunday’s bout is an important game for both teams, as Maryland looks to creep back into postseason position with Penn State looking to climb back toward the top of the table.
2. Will the Terps look energized again following a week-long rest? Maryland’s last showing at Ludwig Field against Michigan State was an abysmal one, but Nemzer provided rightful reasons for the display. While the opponent doesn’t get easier, a well-rested Maryland team will look to play a defensive, competitive style of play that has been seen all season long.
3. A lopsided rivalry. Maryland vs. Penn State is a heated rivalry, but it’s been a dominant series for Sunday’s visitors. In 11 meetings, Maryland has won just one time. The last three matchups, all of which have taken place in State College, have seen the Nittany Lions outscore the Terps 12-1. Bringing the matchup back to College Park could change the tide for the Terps.