After a mishap by Purdue in his own half, Ava Morales reacted quickly to get the ball first and immediately drove towards the Boilermaker defensive line. After separating a yard from the nearest defender, the newcomer pressed a try towards the far post to score her second goal of the day and early career.
After the goal, Morales turned to her teammates, who joined her with a smile as Maryland celebrated their second lead of the day.
“We wanted to take home six points, but knowing it was our last two games together as a team, we really wanted to enjoy every moment and not take a second for granted,” said Catherine DeRosa. “We wanted to send our seniors out with two wins.”
Maryland went into its final two games of the season knowing that postseason hopes were already at an end, but the Terps nonetheless offered some promising glimpses of what to expect from the program going forward as they ended the year with two wins finished.
The Maryland Big Ten game began with the biggest result for the program in years. The Terps hosted and defeated an in-form Michigan squad to claim their first Big Ten win since 2019 and first win over the Wolverines in program history.
However, coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer’s side struggled to maintain their record in their first season at the helm after the record-breaking win. Maryland lost its next seven games and failed to make the Big Ten playoffs for the third straight season.
[Maryland women’s soccer defeats Purdue, 3-1, in last game of season]
The Terps suffered regular second-half failures in the second half of the season. In games against Wisconsin, Rutgers and Illinois, Maryland batted first but didn’t come out with the score or fell victim to late winners.
“A bit more competitive advantage is what we need now,” said Nemzer. “The talent and leadership were there, I think it’s just that advantage right now that I’m looking forward to.”
While Nemzer’s team finished last season with the same number of wins, Maryland won three conference games this season alone — the most the Terps have recorded in a single year since 2019.
Maryland also ended the year with wins over Indiana and Purdue for its first consecutive Big Ten road wins in program history.
Already focused on what comes next, Nemzer and her coaching staff continue to bring a wealth of quality to the program after 19 signings last season.
Maryland’s 2023 recruiting class ranks 11th in the nation and first in Top Drawer Soccer’s Big Ten. Three of nine members of Nemzer’s 2023 recruits will arrive in Maryland this spring.
“You’re going to see players who love the game, who don’t like the game, but love the game,” Nemzer said. “You’re going to see a class … hungry to get Maryland back to where it was as a national contender, to where it was 10 years ago.”
[Maryland women’s soccer snaps seven-game losing streak with win over Indiana, 1-0]
Many of the recruits have cited Maryland’s competitive environment as a reason for their decision, something Nemzer says she and her coaching staff have been working on since the end of the season.
“As soon as the season was over we had ideas and even a support person on how to make it more competitive,” said Nemzer. “One of the questions I’ve asked recruits is, do you love to win or do you hate to lose, and if their answer is, I hate to lose, then this is the recruit I want.”
Aside from the newcomers, Maryland will continue to rely on younger players like newcomers Tahirah Turnage and Morales following the departures of longtime players Alyssa Poarch, Mikayla Dayes and Malikae Dayes.
Morales and Turnage showed potential after amassing 416 and 682 minutes respectively this season. Morales scored twice in the season finale against Purdue and became the first freshman Terp to score a brace since Mikayla Dayes in 2017.
“Ava really grew into the season, and we expected her to do that,” DeRosa said. “She’s extremely hardworking and she’s young, she’s eager, she’s always asking questions and that’s what you want your younger players to do.”
Turnage was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week following her performance against Michigan in September, becoming the first Terp to win the award since 2018.
Although Maryland failed to qualify for the Big Ten tournament, the development of young players and the promising recruit classes the Terps have brought in so far offer some hope for the future.
“I say it over and over, buy stock now… because the stock is only going to go up,” Nemzer said.