Maryland women’s soccer’s 2023 season began with a draw against American University, and it continues when it travels to take on Florida on Sunday night.
It was a solid showing for head coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer’s team in its season opener on Thursday, considering the squad had a starting lineup with eight of eleven players making their Maryland debuts. The Terps only had three shots, but Nemzer felt they played well enough to merit excitement for the upcoming season.
“We’re what, like 12 days into pre-season?” Nemzer said. “I’m excited to see where the growth is gonna go.”
Last season, the Terps opened the year with four straight 1-1 draws, but they will look to turn those some of draws into wins this time around.
Maryland will kick off against the Gators on Sunday at 6 p.m. The game will be streamed on SEC Network+.
Florida Gators (1-0-0, 0-0-0 SEC)
2022 record: (2-14-1, 0-9-1 SEC)
The Gators are in the early stages of a program overhaul, as head coach Samantha Bohon heads into year two after an abysmal first season with her new squad.
The team finished last in the SEC in just about every offensive statistic in 2022, including goals, assists and shots. In conference play, Florida only managed to draw one game and lost the other nine, with its final three losses coming by more than two goals.
Rebuilding a program that has not had a winning record since 2019 is challenging, but the start of this season has already looked promising. The Gators opened the season with a 2-0 win over East Carolina on Thursday. In one game, they already have half as many wins as the entirety of last season.
With many of the squad’s top contributors from last season returning with another year of experience under their belts, it should be a more promising season in Gainesville.
Players to watch
Delaney Tauzel, senior midfielder, No. 25 — In a rebuilding year, Tauzel stood out and led the team with seven points last season. She had two goals and three assists for the Gators, both of which were team bests. If Florida is going to improve this season, Tauzel will play a key part in building up the offense through the middle.
Julianne Leskauskas, senior midfielder, No. 99 — When it came to chances in front of goal for the Gators, no one had more opportunities in 2022 than Leskauskas. She had 35 of the team’s 171 shots last season, with 13 being on target. She finished the season with two goals and two assists and will have to manufacture goals from the midfield if the Gators want to succeed.
Madison Young, junior defender, No. 21 — Leading the team in minutes played last season, Young started every game for the Gators and was a key cog in their defense. She also contributed offensively with two goals, both coming from headers off corners.
Goalkeeping. The only statistical category where the Gators had success last season was saves per game, averaging 3.88 — the third-best mark in the SEC. Florida also allowed the most goals per game, however, giving up an average of 2.29 per contest.
Finishing. Despite Florida playing the least amount of games in the SEC last season with 17, the goals were harder than any other team to come by. With only 16 goals all season, the Gators ranked dead last in the conference. When two midfielders lead the team in scoring, it is an indicator of a the team that has problems converting chances.
Three things to watch
1. Can the Terps’ back line stay settled? In the season opener, Maryland’s defenders hunkered down and did a great job preventing American from scoring. Defender Eden White had a clearance in the 90th minute that saved the draw for the Terps. If it can continue to look solid defensively this season, Maryland would receive a huge boost.
2. Kennedy Bell turned heads in game one. Freshman defender Kennedy Bell was an extreme bright spot Thursday at full back. She came out with an energy and comfort on the ball that did not mirror her inexperience. In the first half, she made a slide tackle that caused the bench to erupt in support. If this type of performance can regularly be expected, Bell will be a key piece for the future of the program.
3. Will the offense click for Maryland? Going without a goal in the first game of the season was not a shock due to the number of new pieces on the roster, but it does confirm the lack of chemistry the Terps have up front. Maryland struggled to keep possession of the ball in the box for much of the game and frequently lost the ball trying to connect with attacking players.