Through six games this season, the Maryland women’s soccer team has averaged 0.83 goals per game while allowing 1.17. With the offense still trying to figure it out, the defense has been the strength of the team all season, keeping the Terps in games with a chance to win.
The cornerstone to any good defense is having a brick wall for a goalie to lead the way. Maryland seems to have two of those. Throughout the early part of this season, head coach Ray Leone has shown that he has no issue with utilizing both of his goalkeepers, senior Rachel Egyed and junior Erin Seppi, in each game however he sees fit. Thus far, Egyed has the lead in playing time compared to Seppi, but their teammates say they can hardly notice the difference.
“Personally, I don’t notice [a difference] because they’re both very strong keepers and very smart players,” defender Jenna Surdick said. “I think they both kind of play similar.”
Having good goalkeeping is one important part of the equation, but good defending on the back line is crucial to keeping goal-scoring opportunities from developing. Luckily for the Terps, the defense is loaded with talented upperclassmen with the skill and experience to keep the opposing attack at bay. Junior defender Julia New has played particularly well this season, and has been trying to improve the defense as a whole with her leadership.
“[Julia New] is just a beast on the back line,” midfielder Hope Lewandoski said. “If we’ll make a mistake, she saves us all the time in the back line, she’ll step up and make a big stop. She comes in game after game and is prepared to make up for our mistakes and help us out.”
While the contributions from upperclassmen like Surdick and New have been key, the play of redshirt sophomore Malikae Dayes has turned heads around the program. Although listed as a midfielder, Dayes is all over the defensive side of the field, making tackles and breaking up chances for the opposition.
“She’s had a rough go of it for two years here with different things—injuries, ankle [issues], this or that,” Leone said. “It just never really came together for her, and to see her come in here at top-level shape, top-level attitude, and [being] sharp and aggressive, I’m actually very happy to see this turnaround for her because she’s earned it.”
Although the defense may be pleased with the way they’ve played so far, they know that there’s still work to be done.
“There’s definitely always room for improvement,” Surdick said. “We definitely need to work better as a unit defensively and just work on working back, and just being tough in the middle.”
Of course, even with a steady defense, the wins haven’t been coming. Leone knows that things will only get tougher in Big Ten play and that his defense needs to be prepared to carry the load in those games.
“[We want to] make them score a great goal,” Leone said. “Make every team earn it, and I don’t think we’ve done that very well and we’ve just gotta lock it down. So if this is what prepares us for the Big Ten, we’ll take the lessons and learn from them.”