On Sunday, Maryland women’s soccer picked up its signature win of the season, upsetting No. 14 Northwestern 2-1.
For a team that’s struggled for the most part against Big Ten opponents ever since joining the league, the Terps’ win was a confirmation of something they already knew: they’re capable of competing with any team they meet on the pitch.
“The energy and attitude of the team, coming out calm, cool and composed and just moving the ball and going into it with the confidence and attitude that we are good enough to battle with these teams,” senior goalkeeper Rachel Egyed said following the win on Sunday. “It showed in the first half and we’re just proving ourselves right because we know can compete with these teams.”
The confidence has been with the Terps all season long, but the results haven’t exactly. Maryland’s record through 15 games this season is 4-7-4, with a 2-4-1 mark in the conference. While it’s been a far from perfect season, Maryland still has an outside chance at qualifying for the Big Ten tournament, depending on how their final four games go.
Maryland’s 2-4-1 conference record is tied with Iowa and Northwestern for the 10th seed in the Big Ten. Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, are all currently tied for the seventh seed at 3-4-0, and the top eight teams make the conference tournament. Two of Maryland’s final four games are against Michigan and Indiana, so at least the Terps will have a shot at controlling their own destiny.
Part of the reason this team is optimistic about possibly playing into the postseason is the consistency it’s begun to show on a game-to-game basis. The Terps appear to have worked through some of the issues that hurt them early in the season, and have become more balanced and avoided relying completely the defense to keep them in games.
“We’re just realizing that if we play our game we can create and finish the opportunities,” midfielder Darby Moore said. “We just have to stay focused on every opportunity that we do get, because if you look at the stats against Northwestern they did have more shots technically but we were able to finish more, so our finishing I think has gotten better.”
In addition to the offense finding more consistency in finishing chances, they’re also starting to get contributions from players other than their typical goal-scorers. Just this week, freshman Loren Sefcik was awarded Big Ten Freshman of the Week after scoring the game-clinching goal against Northwestern.
“I feel like now that I’ve scored I have more confidence going in,” Sefcik said of her first career goal. “After I did score I felt like I got some mojo going, and that’ll help me throughout the rest of the season and hopefully we can all come together and produce against Penn State and Ohio State.”
While the Terps may have some swagger coming at the perfect time, they’re going to have to do something these next two games they haven’t been able to do all season: win on the road. Maryland is 0-4-2 in road games this season, but head coach Ray Leone thinks the added postseason implications against Penn State and Ohio State will be enough to keep the momentum from Sunday’s senior day victory going.
“It’s definitely promising to come off of that successful game on Sunday, but we’re the underdog again,” Leone said. “I mean. we’re playing Penn State and Ohio State this weekend. It’s not chopped liver. They’re the best in the business, so just the challenge alone [will be enough]. You have to bring everything you’ve got or you’ll get wiped off the map.”