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Maryland women’s soccer aims to make 2019 another step forward in its rebuild

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Our State of the Program series continues with a look at women’s soccer.

maryland women’s soccer coach ray leone Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

The Maryland sports offseason is here, and it was a wild year for Terrapin athletics. There were national championships in men’s soccer and women’s lacrosse, and a trip to the title game in field hockey. Maryland athletes won some of the highest honors in their sports. But there were also some lows, both on and off the field.

This summer, we’ll be going in-depth on every Maryland varsity program, looking at where it’s been and where it’s going. The series started with football, and with the U.S. Women’s National Team starting its World Cup defense today, it will continue with women’s soccer. Let’s get to it.

Maryland women’s soccer

Established: 1987
All-time record: 303-280-67
Best seasons: 1996 (19-5-2, NCAA Quarterfinals); 2010 (18-2-3, No. 3 overall seed in NCAA Tournament)
Last 5 years: 25-51-17, 8-39-10 Big Ten
The coach: Ray Leone (fourth season)
Fall 2018: 4-10-5, 2-7-2 Big Ten

Where it’s been

Maryland has had periods of success and periods in futility without ever becoming a national power. The Terps have had 17 winnings seasons in their 32-year history, and have been to the NCAA Tournament 13 times, making it as far as the quarterfinals in 1995 and 1996.

Maryland didn’t win a conference game its first seven years of existence, struggling to compete in the ACC. The Terps’ first period of success came in the 1990s, when they made five straight NCAA Tournaments from 1995-99. April Heinrichs led Maryland to its first appearance and Alan Kirkup led the team to three more before both accepted coaching jobs at Virginia and Arkansas, respectively. Shannon Higgins-Cirovski, the wife of Maryland men’s soccer coach Sasho Cirovski, took over in 1999 and led Maryland to four NCAA Tournaments in six seasons before stepping down in 2004.

The program struggled for the next four years under Brian Pensky before getting back to the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and earning the No. 3 overall seed a year later. Pensky left for Tennessee following the 2012 season, and Maryland has gone downhill since. Jonathan Morgan led the Terps to the NCAA Tournament in 2013, but the Terps took steps back the next two seasons. Morgan was asked to resign following the 2015 season, with Kevin Anderson hiring Leone to replace him.

Where it’s going

Leone is entering his fourth year at Maryland, which is usually a crucial one for college coaches. The Terps improved from 3-15-1 in his first year to 7-8-3 in his second, but took a step back to 4-10-5 in 2018. Maryland has also struggled in the Big Ten under both Morgan and Leone, going just 8-39-5 and failing to advance to the Big Ten tournament.

Leone was barely able to field a team during his first spring at Maryland, and knew this was always going to be a multi-year rebuild. However, the Terps have struggled to score goals in each of his three seasons as head coach, scoring one goal or less in 41 of 53 games. Freshmen have played serious minutes on each of his teams, which is what usually happens when a program is trying to upgrade talent.

Names to know

Maryland loses three starters and one contributor from last year, including leading scorer Jarena Harmon. She finished last year with six goals and one assist, while no other Maryland player had more than two goals. The Terps will be looking for multiple players to step up and be scoring threats, and Alyssa Poarch could fill that role after a solid redshirt freshman season. Midfielders Darby Moore, Hope Lewandoski and Anissa Mose could be factors as well, helping control the middle of the field and build the attack.

On defense, Maryland has to replace Rachel Egyed, who was an excellent last line of defense for a back line that could be overwhelmed when the offense struggled to maintain possession. Erin Seppi should take over for Egyed after seeing time in five games, with sophomore Adalee Broadbent leading the back line after playing a team-high 1,706 minutes last season.

Maryland also welcomes back midfielder Jlon Flippens, who was one of the Terps’ top players in 2016 and 2017 before missing most of last season with an injury.

The mission

Rebuilding is Leone’s specialty, as he’s turned teams into winners at each of his previous five stops. But he hasn’t done that so far at Maryland, and may be running out of time. The Terps have made strides to be more competitive, yet their record has hardly improved.

Besides returning most of a young team from last year, Leone brought in two new assistants in Leon Celestin and Kerry Dziczkaneic, both of whom come from winning programs. The hope is this will lead to another step forward, which for the Terps would be appearing in the Big Ten tournament for the first time since joining the conference. Another tough season could mean things will be different for this program in 2020.