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Maryland women’s soccer vs. Saint Joseph’s preview

The Terps suffered their first loss of the season on Thursday.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Maryland women’s soccer will look to get back on the right foot Sunday afternoon when they take on the Saint Joseph’s Hawks.

The Terps (1-1-4) suffered their first defeat Thursday night at the hands of No. 24 Wake Forest.

It was a defensive stalemate for most of the contest, but the Demon Deacons were eventually able to break through on a 60th-minute tally from graduate midfielder Giovanna Demarco.

Maryland’s attack was non-existent on the night, as they registered just a lone shot on goal, by far the lowest single-game total of the season.

The Demon Deacons possess one of the top defenses in the nation, so while the lack of offense was unsurprising, it was still disappointing.

Head coach Meg Ryan Nemzer and company will have to shake off the loss, as they’ll return to Ludwig Field for their fourth consecutive home game.

Additionally, it’s senior day for the Terps, and 15 players will be honored before this weekend’s contest.

Those seniors will look to celebrate with a win against a Hawks team that has lost five of its opening seven contests.

The game is set for 1 p.m. and will be available for streaming on Big Ten Plus.

Saint Joseph’s Hawks (1-5-1)

2021 record: 6-12-2 (5-5 A-10)

Saint Joseph’s is coming off a season in which a tremendous late-season push nearly saw them pull of a miraculous conference upset. The slipper did not fit in the end for this seasoned group, though, as the bottom seed’s hopes fell short in the Atlantic 10 semifinals to eventual conference runner-up UMass.

The Hawks bring back 18 players from last season’s squad, including nine starters.

Unfortunately, that magic has not continued into this season for Saint Joseph’s. They started off the season with four straight defeats, getting outscored 14-2.

Despite the rough start, the Hawks have found their game of late. Following a 3-0 victory against Fairleigh Dickinson, the Hawks drew, 2-2, with Drexel before losing 1-0 to an excellent Hofstra team.

The Hawks have had a common theme in recent years of struggling in early season play but picking it up just before conference matchups, becoming an average group.

Led by 22nd-year head coach Jess Mannella, the veteran Hawks will look to build on their better play of late when they come to College Park.

Players to know

Jiselle Daniels, sophomore forward, No. 21 — After not getting much opportunity last season, Daniels has stepped into the Hawks’ attack and been its clear-cut leader. Starting in all seven games, she leads the team in goal contributions, with a goal and three assists on the season. She has logged three points in the team’s last three games.

Natalie Nevins, junior midfielder, No. 7 — A three-year starter, Nevins anchors the Hawks’ midfield, providing immense experience while being able to produce up the field as well. Leading all outfield players in minutes this season, she has chipped in two goals.

Erica Behr, graduate defender, No. 8 — The fifth-year player was named one of the team’s captains last season, and helped lead the Hawks to the most shutouts in the conference. While the defense has been shaky to say the least early in the season, the back line is composed of four returners, and the play has been better as of recent. Behr leads that group who will look to get back to their better ways.

Strength

Experience. The Hawks have one of the most experienced teams in the Atlantic 10, with all but two of their players of their starting 11 being returners. Their nonconference record so far may be deceiving, as they began last season in almost identical fashion before playing at a near .500 level in the season’s second half. They have battled adversity before, and will look to do it again with a group that’s been there and done that.

Weakness

Early defensive struggles. Simply put, the Hawks have been unable to keep the ball out of their net. Allowing two or more goals in five of their opening seven contests, it’s been an immense struggle on the back end for them so far. Saint Joseph’s has given up over seven shots on goal per game. For comparison, that number is just over four for the Terps. Even with the Hawks playing with better structure lately, they’ve still given up too many chances for comfort.

Three things to watch

1. The Terps will have plenty of time on the ball. Similar to their win against George Mason, the Terps are likely to see most of the possession on Sunday. The question is: will they be able to capitalize? The Hawks have given up a lot of chances to their opponents this season, so when the Terps have that open space, they will need to take their chances and run with them.

2. Last year’s matchup ended in a 2OT draw. Maryland did everything right but score last season, registering 19 shots — 12 of those on goal. A similar showing would be worrying for Maryland, with some of their early games this season playing out just like last season’s matchup in Philadelphia. Nemzer knows her team will be on the ball for the majority of the 90 minutes, but the Terps need to capitalize when they’re given that time with the ball.

“You need one good opportunity to put the ball in the back of the net,” Nemzer said after Thursday’s 1-0 loss against Wake Forest.

Sunday, they’ll need to take the multitude of opportunities that will come their way.

3. Can Maryland bounce back? Maryland is not only coming off their first loss of the season, but also their first time being shut out. Provided it came against a top-quality opponent, a loss is a loss, and how the team responds Sunday will say a lot about the group. Will the Terps be able to make senior day a memorable one before they begin conference play? Only time will tell.