It’s a new year filled with new expectations for Maryland women’s soccer, which will look to start the season with a win when it travels to Washington, D.C. to take on American University on Thursday.
After a retooling offseason that saw 15 players leave the program and eight transfers come in — along with the top freshman class in the Big Ten — head coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer leads a new-look Terps squad into her second year with the program.
Maryland has seen success in season openers in recent years. The last time the Terps dropped an opener was in 2016, when they lost to TCU by a score of 2-1.
The Terps will kick off their opener against the Eagles on Thursday at 2 p.m. The game will be available for streaming on ESPN+.
American University Eagles (0-0-0)
2022 record: (3-6-6, 2-5-2 Patriot League)
It’s been a tough few years for the Eagles during head coach Marsha Harper’s tenure, with the team failing to have a winning record during each of Harper’s three years at the helm.
Last season, American finished eighth out of 10 teams in the Patriot League. The Eagles managed to draw the same number of games they lost, though, a testament to their defense.
Harper’s team did wrap the season up on an strong note, beating Loyola (Md.), 2-1. American closed out the season by winning two of its final three games in its strongest push of the year.
American’s top three leaders in both goals and assists last season return this season. With the clock ticking, Harper has to find winning answers fast if she wants to keep building in the nation’s capital.
Players to watch
Izzy Kadzban, senior forward/midfielder, No. 10 — In her first season at American after transferring from Florida, Kadzban made the All-Patriot League third team last year and was the primary source of timely offense for the Eagles. She finished with a team-best four goals, and three of them were game-winners. Now with her first year in the conference under her belt, Kadzaban is looking for an even better senior season.
Fisayo Iluyomade, graduate forward, No. 23 — Iluyomade only started five games in her senior season but had one of the best offensive outputs on the team. She finished the season with two goals and one assist, and put up a team-high 17 shots in 15 games. Coming back for her final year, Iluyomade will aim to go out with a bang.
Julia Kato, junior goalkeeper, No. 0 — Having to start every game of her first two seasons, it’s safe to say that Kato was thrown into the fire by Harper from the start. Even with that pressure, Kato has managed to put up decent numbers, tallying three clean sheets as a freshman and four as a sophomore. In 2022, she ranked fifth in the conference in goals against average (1.138) and sixth in saves per game (3.67). Her junior season could be the perfect time for Kato to take that next step to becoming one of the elite goalies in the conference.
Team defense. There’s a reason that American drew six games last season — it refused to give up. Despite their lack of offense, the Eagles ranked third in the conference in goals allowed (17) and fourth in goals allowed per game (1.13). They also showed plenty of aggression, ranking second in the conference in yellow cards received (19). If the Eagles hadn’t ranked in the middle of the pack of the conference in save percentage, some of those ties many have become wins.
Offensive production. It’s clear that the Eagles’ offense is what kept them from having any real success in 2022. Build-up play wasn’t leading directly to chances, as American had the fewest number of shots (118) and assists (6) in the Patriot League. The team also only attempted 46 corners last season, the second-fewest in the conference.
Three things to know
1. Can the Terps’ defense start with a clean sheet? In 2022, the Terps only kept four clean sheets, three of which ended in wins. The defense has a lot of experienced players to plug into the back line, so it will be interesting to see how they all gel together to start the season.
2. How will the new-look attack perform? None of the four players with the most combined goals and assists for Maryland last season return in 2023. As such, sophomore forward Kelsey Smith and junior forward Kat Parris could both end up being key pieces of the attack. The Terps only scored 16 goals last season, a number they’ll need to improve on to see a difference in the win column.
3. Can Beardsley fix Maryland’s problems in net? One of Nemzer’s most important moves in the transfer portal was landing junior goalkeeper Liz Beardsley. She had an 8-5-1 record with Georgia last season, including six shutouts. In 2022, the Terps had two different starters at keeper in 17 games, and allowed the fourth-most goals in the conference. Beardsley’s role will be to bring about a stable presence between the posts.