When Maryland hired Ray Leone away from Harvard last year, it signaled a commitment to building a successful women’s soccer team. Entering last season, Leone began his 26th year as a head coach for his sixth different program. However, despite a career winning record, he couldn’t find success with the Terps.
Now, in year two under Leone, Maryland is much more prepared to compete in each game, with more talent and more comfort in the new system.
What happened last year
The Terps struggled mightily in 2016, finishing with a 3-15-1 record and never being able to find any consistency. In their first 12 games, the Terps allowed two goals or fewer five times as the defense took a while to get going. In the final seven games, Maryland only scored once despite an improved defense, finishing the season on a six-game scoreless streak and a nine-game losing streak.
However, Leone’s first season was about more than wins and losses. The new coach wanted to establish a successful culture that goes beyond the record and set the team up for long-term success. Last year’s team included 14 new players, most of whom weren’t able to practice in the spring, and that clearly contributed to Maryland’s lack of consistency.
Who’s in, who’s out
The Terps return almost everyone from last year’s squad, including leading scorers Chelsea Jackson and Jerena Harmon and leading goalkeeper Rachel Egyed.
Maryland also brings in the 25th-ranked recruiting class in the country for this season, which includes 14 incoming freshman. Among them are Alyssa Poarch, a forward who’s trained with the U-17 National Team, and sisters Malikae and Mikalya Dayes, the latter having played for Canada in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
Additionally, the Terps add a few transfers, led by defender Zoe Clark, who spent her four previous seasons at Cal.
Meanwhile, the Terps don’t lose much off of last year’s team. Emily Kift and Lisa Bianchini both graduated after combining for only 11 shots in 690 total minutes all season, while Stephanie Senn spent most of her redshirt senior season as a third-string goalkeeper despite starting two games.
In total, 33 players are currently listed on this year’s roster, 13 more than Maryland had last year.
What to expect
Maryland is in a much better position to succeed in year two of Leone’s tenure. Between a solid recruiting class and players’ familiarity with each other and Leone, the Terps should at the very least be a much more consistent team this season.
One of the biggest differences between last year and this year is the goalkeeper situation. In 2016, Leone started the season using a three-goalkeeper rotation, with each playing at least 250 total minutes during the season. This year, Rachel Egyed, who played 90 minutes in five of Maryland’s final seven games, should be the primary starter in goal. This should immediately help Maryland with its consistency issues on defense.
Finally, the expansion to a roster with 13 more players means Maryland will have greater depth than it did last season. Jackson and Harmon scored 17 of the Terps’ 21 total goals in 2016, a testament to how thin the team was. By bringing back almost everybody, now familiar with Leone and his playing style, and bringing in 13 new players, Maryland will give its two leading scorers more help.
Leone has only just started his rebuild of this program, so the team is sure to struggle at times in 2017. However, the team is already in a better position to succeed, and despite last year’s rough season, there is reason to be optimistic that the Terps are on the rise.