Despite getting off to a strong start through the early part of the 2017 season, things ultimately turned sour down the stretch and Maryland women’s soccer dropped to the bottom of the Big Ten totem pole. Now, third-year coach Ray Leone is looking to build off last season and posture the team towards legitimacy in 2018.
The Terps placed 13th in the conference preseason poll, but will hope to exceed expectations with a young group. Three players—senior goalie Rachel Egyed, junior defender Jlon Flippens and senior forward Jarena Harmon—made the league’s preseason honors list.
Here’s how the team shapes up as a whole.
Key players lost
As is the case with every collegiate sports team transitioning from one season to the next, several important players will be lost to graduation. But the Terps’ losses shouldn’t bring any large-scale changes to the team makeup.
Of the six graduated seniors, the most important losses will likely be midfielder/forward Madison Turner and midfielder Hope Gouterman. Both players appeared in 16 or more games and logged over 1,300 minutes of playing time, so Leone will have a significant amount of minutes to replace. Forward Chelsea Jackson missed most of last season with an injury, but was one of Maryland’s top scoring threats when healthy.
Turner paced the Terps’ offense in goals, shots, and shots on goal for the 2017 season. But not all is as bad as it seems, as sophomore Mikayla Dayes, who scored three goals in five games before missing the rest of 2017 with an injury, will likely assume the void left by Turner.
One of the strongest reasons for optimism for the 2018 campaign is the cast of players that will be returning for at least one more season in College Park.
Perhaps most important aspect to the team’s success in 2017 was the goalkeeping effort from Rachel Egyed. Despite receiving little offensive support, Egyed still managed 71 saves, including some fantastic PK saves as well.
If significant steps are going to be taken towards success in 2018, having a rock-solid goalkeeper at the center of the defense is a good thing to have.
As mentioned before, Mikayla Dayes will also be back and ready to recreate some of the same magic she had at the beginning of last season. After bursting onto the scene with three goals and two assists in the first 293 minutes of her Maryland career, Dayes suffered a non-contact leg injury that would sideline her for the rest of her freshman season. But the skills she showed in her first five games will be back on display next season, as Leone will likely try to mold his offense around the talented sophomore.
Other players returning who figure to play a large role in 2018 include junior defender/midfielder Jlon Flippens and sophomore midfielder Hope Lewandoski. Flippens appeared in 14 games , as a sophomore (starting 13), notching two goals and three assists. Lewandoski appeared in all 18 games (starting 16) and scored one goal in 1,467 minutes.
Leone will be replacing the six departing seniors next season with seven true freshman players. Among the newcomers are forward Emily McNesby, midfielder Loren Sefick, forward/midfielder Taylor Whitmer, midfielder/defender Madison Oracion, defender Adalee Broadbent, forward Saylor Clark and forward/defender Katie Krotee. Clark was New Hampshire Player of the Year in 2016 and a three-time first team all-state selection, while McNesby and Broadbent both hail from Pennsylvania and have been playing together since they were 12 years old.
In addition to the seven true freshmen, Alyssa Poarch will be playing her first season with the Terps after redshirting with the team last season. In high school, Poarch was a member of the USA U-18 National Team pool, and was also Top Drawer Soccer Second Team Spring All-American as a senior. Whether or not she’ll play a significant minutes in 2018 remains to be seen, but given that Leone lets every player on the active roster make at least one appearance during the season, Poarch will have the opportunity to earn playing time this fall.
The Terps will kick off (pun intended) the new season with a pair of games in Harrisonburg, Virginia, starting with a matchup with William & Mary this Thursday and a game against James Madison on Sunday. They’ll enter the year on a 637:35 scoreless streak and hope to get on the board early.
Last season, Maryland thrived during its non-conference schedule, getting off to a 6-0-1 start before entering conference play. This fall, the combined 2017 record of the non-conference opponents is 73-48-13, so the early season may not be as easy as before. But Maryland will be playing Drexel, Navy, George Washington, and William & Mary, all of whom the Terps beat last season.
Looking towards the Big Ten slate, matchups to watch should be the October 12th match at No. 4 Penn State. The Terps lost to the Nittany Lions last season 1-0 in College Park, but this year’s match will be in a hostile environment. Beating Penn State will be important in making progress towards the top of the Big Ten. Two days later, the team continues west to meet No. 23 Ohio State in Columbus. Like Penn State, the Buckeyes are a power in the Big Ten, and facing them will be one of the bigger tests of the regular season.