Maryland women’s soccer concluded a six-game homestand Thursday night with a chance to improve to 2-0 in Big Ten play for the first time ever, however, they walked away with a disappointing loss.
Up 1-0 halfway through the second half against Illinois, the Terps, who had been the better team all night, faltered.
Allowing three goals in quick succession, Maryland dug itself into an insurmountable hole in what became an eventual 3-2 defeat.
Looking toward Sunday, the Terps face No. 4 Rutgers, which poses a much more daunting challenge, Maryland will need to play a near-perfect to get a positive result.
The game is set for 1 p.m Sunday at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, New Jersey. It will be televised on Big Ten Network.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (9-1)
2021 record: 19-4-2 (10-0 Big Ten)
Rutgers is the co-favorite to take home the Big Ten crown, with a national championship in its sights as well.
The Knights bring back nine starters from a team that completed the only undefeated season in Big Ten history and advanced to the Final Four.
It’s been a near-immaculate start to the season for ninth-year head coach Mike O’Neill, with his team’s only falter coming in a tough defeat to Penn State, 2-0, this past Thursday.
Rutgers’ last regular season loss prior to last week’s came against Georgetown on Sep. 12, 2021.
The Knights rank in the top 20 in the nation in goals, assists and points, solidifying themselves as an elite attack. On the back end, they’ve conceded just seven times.
One of the most seasoned, skilled and well-balanced teams in America will provide quite the test for Maryland.
Players to know
Emily Mason, sophomore defender, No. 15 — The reigning Big Ten Defender of the Week has started in eight games for the Knights, with the two she missed to start the season coming because she was with the United States U20 National Team. In seven of her starts, she played all 90 minutes. She leads a back line that is allowing fewer than one goal per game.
Sam Kroeger, junior forward, No. 5 — Kroeger has started every available game in her three years with the team. This season, she leads Rutgers in scoring with six goals and is part of an attack that is 14th in the nation with 2.9 goals a game. Her clutch play is unquestioned, as she’s collected three game-winning goals. She was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week earlier in the season
Meagan McClelland, graduate goalkeeper, No. 1 — McClelland is one of the most decorated goalies in NCAA history, with the most shutouts ever (39). She is likely to eclipse the all-time minutes mark by the end of season as well. She’s still one of the nation’s best this year, with four clean sheets in the opening 10 matches.
Just about everything. With an overall record of 28-5-2 since last season, Rutgers has cemented itself as one of the top national championship contenders. Making it all the way to the national semifinals last year, fourth-ranked Rutgers looks primed for another run. The goal scoring, defense and goaltending are all elite.
Coming off an opening loss. The Big Ten coaches voted Penn State and Rutgers as preseason co-favorites to win the Big Ten title, and the Nittany Lions drew first blood this past week with a 2-0 win. It was the Knights’ first regular season loss in a calendar year, so it will be interesting to see how they respond in what is going to be a meaningful bout.
Three things to watch
1. A homecoming for Meghan Ryan Nemzer. Sunday afternoon will certainly be an emotional one for the Maryland head coach. She spent three seasons as a player with the Scarlet Knights before spending the last 15 as a member of its coaching staff.
“Obviously it’s gonna be a little bit weird going into the visitor locker room and remembering what bench I need to go to,” Nemzer said.
2. This is the start of a brutal four-game stretch. The Terps will face three of the Big Ten’s best after visiting Rutgers. They stay on the road Thursday to face off against Wisconsin, which is projected to slide into the top 25 in next week’s rankings before heading home to take on 6-1-3 Michigan State. This stretch of games concludes Oct. 9 against No. 17 Penn State, which handed Rutgers its lone loss this past Thursday.
3. The last time the Terps beat a ranked opponent, it was Rutgers. Maryland’s lack of success in recent years is well-documented, and its last win against a ranked opponent came almost three years ago to date — a 2-1 victory at No. 20 Rutgers. Will Nemzer be able to repeat history against her alma mater?