Despite Maryland women’s soccer seeing a decade pass without an NCAA Tournament appearance and going two years without a conference victory, first-year head coach Meghan Ryan Nezmer sees a way to establish a new and improved culture in a new era of Terps soccer.
“My commitment to these players is that we’re going to have a great opportunity to change this probe around and we’re going to do it the right way,” Nemzer said in March.
In a reshaping of the program rather than a rebuild, only 11 members of last year’s squad that finished 4-9-5 are returning. This year’s 30-woman team is rounded out by a combination of nine freshmen and 10 transfer signings.
The newly-built team will have the challenge of achieving a winning season in the daunting Big Ten Conference for the first time since 2019.
“We just need people who can dig deep, who can put this program on the map, which I know that the players that we’re bringing in, and the current roster as well, can make it happen quickly,” Nemzer added.
As a way to introduce the new season and era, a mix of alumni, Terps legends and coaches of different Maryland sports delivered short messages on Twitter to announce each matchup of this year’s schedule. Nemzer started the new tradition on June 13.
“Culture is big. Every program, every team that I have been a part of since I was a little girl has had a great team atmosphere, a great culture,” Nemzer said.
Following a 2-2 draw against Towson this past Tuesday in what was its sole preseason matchup, Maryland will begin its 17-game regular season slate on August 18 at 7:00 p.m. as it travels to Philadelphia to take on Temple.
The Terps will begin conference play at home against Michigan on Sept. 16, coincidentally the team that handed them their last loss of the 2021 season. Their regular season concludes on Sunday, Oct. 23, at Purdue.
It is no secret that the program is undergoing a massive change, with 19 new players joining the team this year. Even though Nemzer is moving in a different direction, there are some impactful players that will be missed.
Forward Kori Locksley ended the 2021 campaign with two goals and two assists, both of which ranked second on the team. In her only season with Maryland she appeared in all 18 games as a graduate student and was a staple in the Terps’ attack alongside Mikayla Dayes. Locksley contributed to almost a quarter of Maryland’s goals last year, so her absence will leave a large hole in the offense.
Other starters who are not returning include midfielder Hope Lewandoski, attacker Emily McNesby and defender Adalee Broadbent.
Additionally, Toni Domingos, who came to Maryland last year surrounded by immense hype as an All-American high-schooler, is not on the Terps’ roster this season.
Top returning options
Defender Malikae Dayes, who is returning for her sixth season in College Park as a second-year graduate student, was the staple member of the Maryland defensive core. A three-year starter, she logged the most minutes of any player last fall while playing in every game. Additionally, she was an Academic All-Big Ten selection.
Dayes came into the program in 2017 with her sister, and she gradually became one of Maryland’s top offensive weapons. Last season, she led Maryland in all offensive statistical categories while starting in all 18 games.
The Ontario natives will be the grizzled veterans on an unfamiliar Terrapins squad looking to get back to winning ways.
Fifth-year graduate student Alyssa Poarch was the victim of a season ending-knee injury after playing just four games last season. A member of the 2019 All-Big Ten Second Team, Poarch was in incredible form during her short-lived 2021 campaign, registering two goals and two assists in four starts. Despite playing just four-of-18 games, her two goals were tied for the second-highest output on the team. After her injury, the team failed to register a win the rest of the season.
Alongside junior midfielder Catherine DeRosa and senior midfielder Olivia Hicks, Poarch will serve as a captain this upcoming season.
With at least half of the new starting positions set to be filled by first-year players, this year’s transfer signings are part of the most significant turnaround in recent memory for the program.
Maryland women’s soccer newcomers
|Player||Previously at||2021 Stats|
|Player||Previously at||2021 Stats|
|Kam Fisher||UTEP||3 assists (15 matches, 12 starts)|
|Amit Cohen||Florida Atlantic||70 saves, 0.97 GAA (18 starts)|
|Amanda Schafer||Rhode Island||7 shots (17 matches, 15 starts)|
|Sofi Vinas||Oregon||9 matches|
|Halle Johnson||UNC Wilmington||2 assists (14 matches, 8 starts)|
|Sydney Urban||Florida||1 assist (20 matches, 16 starts)|
|Christa Waterman||Fairleigh Dickinson||2 goals (18 starts)|
|Sydney Hopkins||San Diego||1 goal (16 matches, 15 starts)|
|Alina Stahl||West Virginia||6 goals, 2 assists (14 matches, 10 starts in 2020)|
|Juliana Lynch||West Virginia||2 goals (16 matches, 14 starts)|
|Olivia Ozbolt||High School||N/A|
|Tahirah Turnage||High School||N/A|
|Caroline Walbridge||High School||N/A|
|Brooke Birrell||High School||N/A|
|Meredith Caviglia||High School||N/A|
|Symone Jenson||High School||N/A|
|Ava Morales||High School||N/A|
|Éva Mowery||High School||N/A|
|Kelsey Smith||High School||N/A|
Maryland finished last season as the second-worst defensive team — statistically speaking — in the conference, allowing 29 goals in 19 games, so the four reinforcements are for good reason.
Amanda Schafer was a four-year starter and three-year captain at the University of Rhode Island, where she appeared in over 60 games. She likely will be employed as a fullback in Nemzer’s system this season.
Christa Waterman, a Maryland native, spent four years at Fairleigh Dickinson, making 60 appearances and being named to the All-NEC First Team in each of the past three seasons. Dayes has a new centerback partner to look forward to this season.
With the departures of both Lewandoski and Loren Sefcik, the midfield is especially thin.
One player who will definitely be able to fill part of that void is Juliana Lynch. Lynch, a rising senior, brings her Baltimore roots to College Park after three seasons with West Virginia. Playing in 50 games in three years for a successful program, she will help solidify the Maryland midfield on both sides of the ball and slide right into a starting position.
Alina Stahl is the most prolific addition to the roster. Another former Mountaineer, Stahl brings much-needed help to a currently lackluster Maryland attack. Stahl’s resume speaks for itself, as she was included on the 2020-21 All-Big 12 First Team, named the 2019 WVU Offensive Player of the Year and had 18 goal contributions in her last 32 games.
Simply said, this offseason was a retooling, reshaping and reconstruction of the entire Maryland women’s soccer program. A new coaching staff and 19 new players will cause great change, but the looming question is whether it is too much, too quickly.
When a storied athletic department like Maryland has a team that fails to register a conference win in consecutive seasons and has not sniffed postseason success, change is warranted.
“Give us time,” Nezmer said when asked about the program’s severe lack of recent success in the Big Ten.
This upcoming Thursday, her time begins.