When this year’s Maryland women’s soccer team looks like it’s finally going to give in, it finds a way to pull itself back into contests.
“We bend but we don’t break,” head coach Meg Ryan Nemzer said following yet another comeback effort Thursday night.
For 83-and-a-half minutes of Thursday’s game against No. 17 Georgetown, the Terps were tested to the limit — seeing shot after shot require brilliance from senior goalkeeper Madeline Smith.
With Georgetown possessing a 1-0 lead, courtesy of a 58th-minute tally, Maryland looked down on the mat in the waning minutes.
Miraculously, senior attacker Alina Stahl found her way into open space and got her head on a Mikayla Dayes cross to even the game and send the fans home happy.
Despite being outplayed for most of the game, the Terps came back from a goal down to secure a 1-1 draw for the fourth consecutive game to begin the season.
Sunday, the Terps will have likely their best chance at the first win of Nemzer’s tenure against George Mason. Last year’s matchup between the teams resulted in a 2-0 road win for the Terps. Maryland holds an 18-6-1 all-time series advantage.
The game will be streamed on Big Ten Plus with kickoff set for 1 p.m at Ludwig Field in College Park.
George Mason Patriots (1-2-2)
2021 record: 6-11-1 (4-5-1 Atlantic 10)
The Patriots are led by second-year head coach Manya Puppione, who previously served as Maryland’s assistant coach from 2016-18. Puppione returns nine players from last year’s squad while seeing 22 new players; nineteen of those are freshmen with three transfers.
The Patriots began the season against Virginia, the current No. 5 ranked team in the nation, and fell, 3-1. Two draws against Radford and Appalachian State, a dominant victory against Howard, and a loss this past Thursday against Towson round up the Patriots’ season thus far.
Last year’s matchup between the Terps and Patriots saw Maryland put up a dominant display, with now-graduate forward Alyssa Poarch potting a late insurance goal.
Players to know
Zoe Vidaurre, redshirt freshman defender, No. 23 — Vidaurre has stepped into the Patriots’ backline in her third year of eligibility and has been their most consistent presence. She has played 90 minutes in all but one game this season, even mixing in the attack with a goal of her own.
Milan Pierre-Jerome, junior midfielder, No. 16 — This name might sound familiar to some Terps fans, as Pierre-Jerome is a transfer from Maryland. Over two seasons with the Terps, she made 15 appearances but fell out of favor in the starting lineup, making just two starts last season. She has unsurprisingly found a more consistent lineup place with the Patriots, starting in all five games this season and leading all midfielders in minutes.
Sarah DeWitt, graduate midfielder, No. 5 — The attacking midfielder is the most experienced player on this team and also the most dangerous up the pitch so far this season. The St. Francis Brooklyn transfer has started every game this season while leading the team in shots and shots on goal. She is tied for the team lead in goals and points with one and two, respectively.
Capitalizing on opportunities. Unlike the Terps, who outside of Thursday’s clash with Georgetown have seen a multitude of chances end to no avail, George Mason has been able to generate little but takes advantage when it has sights at goal. The Patriots’ shot percentage is at 0.182, compared to Maryland’s 0.083. While they have registered just 33 shots in five games, their six goals on 17 shots is significantly more efficient than the Terps. If Maryland wants to secure its first victory, it will need to minimize any Patriot chances.
History stands against the Patriots. This series has seen 11 matchups over the past 20 years, and the Terps have come out victorious in 10 of them. In seven of the games, Maryland has blanked George Mason. The Patriots’ last victory came in 2016 in College Park while their current head coach, Puppione, was an assistant on Maryland’s staff. George Mason’s last winning season was in 2018.
Three things to watch
1. Will Maryland’s streak of draws come to an end? Sunday afternoon will be an optimal chance for the Terps to get off the schneid and finally into the win column. While defeating the Patriots is no walk in the park, the Terps have played them well in the past and line up favorably. Look for Nemzer to seek out that elusive first win in front of the home fans.
2. Can other players chip in on the attack? Through four games, Maryland’s goal-scoring has been almost exclusively driven by Alina Stahl. Her two goals and two assists have contributed on all four goals scored this season, and for the Terps to maintain sustained success, it will require more from the likes of Kam Fisher (one goal), Mikayla Dayes (two assists) and Alyssa Poarch.
3. This is the second game of a six-game home stand. Sunday’s game is the second of six straight home contests for the Terps. After starting the season with three away games, the Terps have plenty of time to get comfortable at Ludwig Field. Easily the longest streak of home games this season, it will take them all the way into Big Ten play through Sept. 22.