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Maryland women’s soccer 2023 season preview

The Terps enter their second season under head coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer.

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Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

When Meghan Ryan Nemzer took over as Maryland women’s soccer’s head coach after the 2021 season, she told reporters to “give [her] time” after the program had been knocked off a string of unsuccessful seasons. Now, almost two years later, her team heads into the 2023 season with heightened aspirations.

“In the spring, we spent a lot of time talking about a championship mindset; raising the bar and raising the standard,” Nemzer said in an interview with WMUC Sports in late July.

Last season saw the Terps win the same number of games as the previous season, going 4-8-5. However, they won three conference games, snapping a two-year losing streak against Big Ten opponents.

Two of those wins came in the final two games of the season, with Nemzer saying that she was most impressed by how the team carried its strong finish into its spring training.

“I was excited to see that we ended on that, but was really excited to see their growth from that weekend to the spring as well,” she said.

It’s clear that the culture Nemzer began building last season gained the attention of many high-profile talents around the country. While the team lost 15 players from its 2022 roster, the Terps brought in the top freshman class in the Big Ten — the No. 9 class nationally — along with eight transfers.

“I’m excited to see what the transfers and incoming freshman can add to this standard,” Nemzer said. “They have the same vision, and they’ve made it very clear that they wanna win Big Ten championships — they’re not shy about it. And for me, that speaks volumes about this class.”

Maryland will begin its regular season away from home against American on Thursday, Aug. 17 at 2 p.m.

The team’s 18-game regular-season schedule includes its home opener against Navy on Aug. 24 and its conference opener on Sept. 15 against Penn State. The season will conclude on Oct. 22 at home against Indiana.

Key losses

Last year, 19 new players joined the squad in what looked to be the start of a massive rebuild. Now, the Terps head into the 2023 season without their top four scoring and assist leaders, not to mention the 11 other players who left the squad.

Forward Alina Stahl will be heavily missed this season after leading the Terps with five goals last season. She nearly scored a third of the team’s total goals (16) and started in all 17 games. But it’s not just Stahl who’s missing from the front line this season.

Forwards Alyssa Poarch and Mikayla Dayes graduated as well. Poarch was second on the team in goals (4) and Dayes managed two goals and two assists. The duo also combined for 40% of the team’s total shot attempts and started every game.

Both goalies who started for Maryland last season are also gone. Senior Madeline Smith only started 11 games for the Terps, but still ranked eighth among Big Ten keepers in save percentage (75.9%) last season. In addition, graduate Emory Wegener, who started six games, exhausted her collegiate eligibility.

In the midfield, the Terps will certainly miss Juliana Lynch, who was second on the team in assists (3) last year. Maryland will also be without Amanda Schafer, who helped plug holes in both the defense and midfield.

Last but certainly not least, defender Malikae Dayes — a six-year starter and sister of Mikayla — might be the toughest loss for Nemzer. Dayes carried the back line through much of last season and was a bonafide leader for the team.

Top returners

Due to the lack of returners from last season, only a few players stand out as potential major contributors.

Senior Catherine DeRosa is definitely one of them, though. DeRosa, recently named a team captain, will continue to play an important role in the Terps’ midfield. Last season, she started 15 games and led the team with a career-high four assists.

“[DeRosa] definitely sets the tone in training and on the pitch as far as what the standard is and you always need somebody like that,” Nemzer said.

On defense, senior Sydney Urban and sophomore Tahirah Turnage will compete with the newcomers for playing time. Urban started 16 games and played the sixth-most minutes on the squad in her first year as a Terp. She was featured as both a midfielder and fullback.

Turnage only played in nine games last season, but started seven of them and will look to increase that number.

Sophomore midfielder Ava Morales, who broke out with two goals in the final game of the season, is someone who Nemzer was very high on throughout the spring. She looks to play in an attacking midfield role this season.

Also, senior midfielder Sofi Vinas is returning for her second year with the Terps. After seeing most of her minutes come as a substitute last year, she should compete for a starting role.

Maryland women’s soccer’s newcomers

Player Position Previously at 2022 stats
Player Position Previously at 2022 stats
Maggie Fralin M Virginia N/A (1 match)
Eden White D Santa Clara 2 assists (21 matches, 20 starts)
Lauren Wrigley M North Carolina 1 goal (14 matches, 1 start)
Liz Beardsley GK Georgia 34 saves, .89 GAA (14 starts)
Caroline Koutsos D UMBC 3 goals (17 starts)
Kat Parris F Radford 8 goals, 4 assists (20 starts)
Katie Coyle D Notre Dame 1 goal (23 matches)
Gianna Lucchesi D Richmond N/A (16 matches, 14 starts)
Madison Krakower F/M High School N/A
Kennedy Bell D High School N/A
Peyton Bernard F High School N/A
Courtney McClure D High School N/A
Mia Mitchell D/M High School N/A
Drew Bernard D High School N/A
Juliet Strange D High School N/A
Hannah Schapiro M High School N/A
Isabel Diprima M High School N/A
Savannah Dunahay D High School N/A
Brooke Birrell D High School N/A
Trysta Thomas GK High School N/A
Faith Luckey GK High School N/A
Ashlyn Basinger F High School N/A
Lisa Mcintyre F/M High School N/A

It’s the second straight year of major roster turnover for Maryland, and this year’s newcomers will look to make an impact from the get-go to keep the Terps on track.

Two transfers have been named captains for the upcoming season: junior goalkeeper Liz Beardsley and senior defender Caroline Koutsos, who have both been with the team since the spring.

Beardsley had a breakout year with Georgia in 2022. She started 14 matches and recorded six clean sheets while allowing only 12 goals all season. She will compete for the Terps’ starting keeper job this season.

Koutsos spent three years at UMBC, and was named the team’s most valuable athlete last season. Her experience and leadership has impressed Nemzer, who says that Koutsos does the little things as a leader really well.

“She is one of the best teammates/leaders that I’ve really come across,” Nemzer said.

Bringing in proven winners was a priority for Nemzer in the transfer portal. Senior defender Eden White fits that bill, winning a national championship with Santa Clara in 2020 and having 36 career collegiate starts under her belt. Junior midfielder Lauren Wrigley played for North Carolina, last year’s national runner-up, and junior defender Katie Coyle was one of Notre Dame’s top substitutes during its run to the NCAA quarterfinals last season.

The idea is quite simple from a squad-building perspective: bring in proven winners who will help a talented group of underclassmen grow into winning players.

“All those transfers with that experience is definitely a big piece that’s gonna help the freshmen understand the expectation of what it looks like on a Thursday, Sunday in the Big Ten,” Nemzer said.

Amongst the talented incoming crop of freshman, a few stand out as players who could make an impact. Forward/midfielder Madison Krakower has already spent time with the Puerto Rican national team. Defender Kennedy Bell was dubbed a “quiet leader” by Nemzer, who noted how much respect she gets in the locker room.

With many of the team’s attacking options from last year gone, forward Kelsey Smith will be looked upon to have a prominent season. Smith redshirted last year due to injury, but was named the 2021-22 Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year. Nemzer felt her presence in the attack was sorely missed last season, and expects her to contribute in 2023.

“I’m really gonna look for her to be that [number] 10 role for us, and to really become a playmaker,” Nemzer said of Smith.

Looking ahead

Year one under Nemzer was all about laying down the building blocks for future success. The team managed to improve without having a winning season, but with the majority of the team’s key contributors destined to leave after this year, it wouldn’t have been out of reason for the team to keep rebuilding in 2023.

Instead, the program went out and acquired young talent and proven winners at the collegiate level this past offseason.

Now, the Terps have real aspirations to compete and possibly produce the program’s first winning season since 2019.

“My expectation is that every game we are prepared,” Nemzer said. “We need now to execute, and I think that’s what the biggest difference [will be], I’m hoping, from last year to this year.”