After struggling to find success attacking the goal for most of the non-conference slate, Maryland women’s soccer has come out of the gate firing on all cylinders against Big Ten opponents.
In their first weekend of play, the Terps picked up three points on the Big Ten table, while setting a new high for goals scored in a Big Ten match and winning by their largest margin since joining the conference in 2014.
While some goals, like Darby Moore’s 40-foot strike against Iowa, were scored by chance, sophomore midfielder Anissa Mose sees the improvement in combination play on their attack, creating more opportunities for goals.
“I definitely think we’ve improved,” Mose said. “We’re starting to move the ball a lot more, which I think is playing a big part in how we’re getting the ball up the field and how we’re scoring these goals, because a lot of them are coming off of combination play from the midfielder or the back to the forwards.”
In a game like soccer, though, each match is as much of a mental battle as it is physical. Maryland coach Ray Leone, who mentioned earlier in the season that his team needed growth mentally, believes that his players have vastly improved in that respect.
“They’re ramped it up a little bit, and have a bit of an attitude.” Leone said. “We’re more relaxed in moments in front of the box. We’re just more relaxed and you don’t need as many chances. I thought in that Iowa game there just was a mental shift of just more desire.”
Although Maryland is entering into one of the more difficult stretches of the season, Leone is confident that his team believes they can compete with anyone in the Big Ten, with last weekend serving as proof of that.
“At least they know that they can compete at this level. I expect them to give everything they’ve got in every single Big Ten game, and so far they have done that. So now we’ve just gotta learn from what we did well and whatever we didn’t do well and put it to use.”
Ultimately, the Terps offensive success in the Big Ten will rely heavily upon the team’s leading goal scorers. But forward Jarena Harmon and midfielder Darby Moore have been leading this attack all season, and feel ready to do damage against Big Ten defenses.
“It’s a different type of hunger,” Harmon said. “I think we realize that the Big Ten season has started and it kind of just hit us, and we’re like we wanna do better than we ever have, and there’s no complaints with great effort.”
Maryland will now be turning its focus to Rutgers, as the Terps look to continue their best start to Big Ten play under Leone. The Scarlet Knights have been one of the better teams in the conference thus far in 2018, sitting at 5-1-3 overall and 1-0-1 in the Big Ten.
The Terp defense should have its hands full trying to limit Rutgers (2.11 goals scored per game), and the attack might have to score multiple goals if Maryland wants a chance to win on Sunday. But with the way the offense has been putting it together in last two games, Maryland can start to hold its own against Big Ten opponents.