Maryland women’s soccer will start its daunting 10-game Big Ten slate Friday night against reigning conference champion Michigan.
Friday’s contest will be the Terps’ first shot at their first Big Ten win since 2019, as they’ve gone 22 games without one over the course of the past three seasons.
Recent failures are not bringing the morale down in the Terps locker room though.
“New season, new team, new opportunity. And just think that once we come into Friday, it’s gonna be a show, and we’re ready to perform and show everybody what we’ve been working on,” senior defender Olivia Hicks said.
Maryland is coming off possibly its most disappointing result of the season on Sunday, as they drew Saint Joseph’s, 0-0.
Despite vastly outshooting their opponents, who had suffered five losses in their opening seven games, the Terps once again found themselves unable to capitalize in the final third.
Plenty of chances came close, most notably from graduate attacker Alyssa Poarch, but for the fifth time this season, Maryland was held to a tie.
At 1-1-5 the Terps will host an offensively gifted Wolverines squad at 7 p.m on Friday. The game will be available for streaming on Big Ten Plus.
Michigan Wolverines (5-2-1)
2021 record: 18-4-3 (6-2-2 Big Ten, conference champions)
Coming off a season in which they upset Rutgers to win the Big Ten title before falling in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament, the Wolverines are one of the premier teams in the conference.
They are among the nation’s most prolific attacking squads, tied for the third-most goals (26) in the country through eight games. It’s an unsurprising stat, as head coach Jennifer Klein has over half of last year’s goals return in the form of six returning starters.
The Wolverines began the season in the top 10 of the coaches poll but have since fallen out of the top 25. Despite sitting at 5-2-1 and scoring goals at will, they suffered tough losses against unranked opponents in Iowa State and Butler.
The reigning conference champions have played up and down to their opponents so far, as they’ve also secured positive results against two top-20 opponents in No. 20 Washington State and No. 19 Colorado.
Michigan has won five straight Big Ten games to date, and it will be a tough task for the Terps to end that streak.
Players to know
Sammi Woods, junior attacker, No. 3 — Woods was second on the team in goals last season, with an impressive five tallies. This season, through eight contests, she has seven goals. At nearly a goal a game, she is third in the entire country for goals scored. She has started every game and registered 15 total points.
Sarah Bridenstine, junior defender, No. 15 — Transitioning from a holding midfielder to a fullback, Bridenstine has thrived in her new role this season. One of two returners on the Michigan back line, she’s logged the most minutes of any outfield player while contributing for two goals and an assist. She anchors an improving defense that has allowed 10 goals on the year.
Avery Kalitta, sophomore midfielder, No. 19 — A member of the 2021 Big Ten All-Freshman team, Kalitta broke out in the latter half of the season last year, notching her spot as Michigan’s star holding midfielder. She’s kept that level of play going, starting every game this season as the Wolverines’ top presence in the midfield. On Sunday afternoon, she scored her first goal of the season in a 7-2 rout of Toledo.
Scoring goals. It’s simple — the Wolverines’ success stems from their attack. Their front three has combined for 16 tallies to start the season. They’ve scored six goals or more in three games. They have 26 goals to their opponents’ 10. Michigan is operating at a pace of over three goals a game, and it doesn’t look like it’ll slow down.
A shaky start on defense. While the Wolverines’ attack has been unstoppable, the defense has only recorded two clean sheets on the season. Both of their center backs are newcomers, and that has shown slightly in nonconference play. Even in its dominant wins, Michigan has conceded two goals in two of their three blowouts. Maryland should have its counterattack chances Friday, but each one will be of the utmost importance.
Three things to watch
1. 1,090. Come Friday, that will be the number of days since Maryland captured its last Big Ten win when it took down Minnesota, 2-0. For yet another season, The Terps will look to end that horrid streak. The challenge starts against the reigning conference champs, so it will take a phenomenal performance for the Terps to break the losing streak.
2. Michigan has dominated the series. In eight matchups between the schools, Michigan has come away on top in each meeting. Last season’s game was a thriller, as Maryland came close to finding its first win against the Wolverines, but the Terps’ season finale ended in overtime heartbreak.
3. Maddie Smith will be back in goal. After sitting out Sunday’s contest against Saint Joseph’s for rest, the senior Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Week from two weeks ago will find herself back between the goalposts for the Terps on Friday. She’ll be back, but she’ll be busy. Smith will need to be at her best to give Maryland a fighting chance.