Maryland women’s soccer vs. Indiana preview

Maryland women’s soccer vs. Indiana preview

Maryland women’s soccer faces the Indiana Hoosiers as it wraps up its home schedule on Sunday.

In their last game, the Terps were defeated 5-2 by ninth-ranked Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights, possessing one of the most potent offenses in the country, put on an offensive clinic, scoring four goals in the first half. Despite the result, Maryland had its best offensive output since Sept. 2, scoring two goals for the first time in Big Ten play.

Indiana holds a 3-1-3 advantage in the all-time series against Maryland, and Sunday marks a pretty crucial match for the Big Ten Tournament hopes. The Hoosiers sit in fifth place with 11 points but are only two points above the three teams tied for eighth-place. The top eight teams in the conference qualify for the tournament at the end of the regular season.

Sunday’s game is set for a 1 p.m. kickoff and will air on BTN Plus.

Indiana Hoosiers (9-3-3, 3-2-2 Big Ten)

Spring 2021 record: 6-5-1 (6-4-1 Big Ten)

Head coach Erwin van Bennekom is in his third year leading the Indiana women’s soccer program. Van Bennekom came to Indiana in December 2018 after a four-year stint at Duke as an assistant head coach before getting promoted to associate head coach. He helped guide the Blue Devils to their best four-year stretch in program history, advancing to the Women’s College Cup twice. Through three years at the school, van Bennekom has compiled a 23-17-6 record.

The Hoosiers have only recorded one win in their last four games, but have earned results in five of their last six. With only three games to play and a tight race to make the conference’s postseason tournament in front of them, every point matters. An interesting storyline unfolds as midfielder Sydney Staier, who was one of Maryland’s better offensive players in the spring, returns to College Park wearing a Hoosier uniform. In Indiana’s last game, it suffered a 3-0 loss at Penn State, only recording seven shots in the match.

Players to Know

Jen Blitchok, sophomore forward, No. 20 — Blitchok has dominated her sophomore campaign, leading the Hoosiers with four goals, 12 points and 34 shots. Blitchok is also one goal shy of the team lead with four goals. Blitchok only had two goals her freshman year, and both were against Maryland. The Grandville, Michigan, product has really broken out in her second season.

Oliwia Wos, senior defender, No. 18 — In her time with Indiana, Wos has been instrumental in holding together its back line. Wos played every single minute for the Hoosiers last season en route to earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors. Wos has continued that performance into this year, powering one of the nation’s best defenses. She has also added two assists, including one last Sunday against Northwestern.

Jamie Gerstenberg, freshman goalkeeper, No. 31 — As someone who played for Germany’s U17 and U19 national teams, Gerstenberg would know what it takes to perform in the Big Ten. Starting all 15 games, Gerstenberg has been nothing short of excellent. She owns the Big Ten’s best goals-against average mark at 0.535 per game and also leads the league with eight shutouts.

Strength

Defense and goalkeeping. In 15 games this season, Indiana has been incredibly stout on the defensive end. The Hoosiers have only allowed eight goals all season, a tremendous stat. Their .53 goals allowed per game paces the Big Ten and ranks in the top-20 in the entire nation. Indiana’s defense could be troublesome for a Maryland offense that has had problems generating goals for the majority of the season.

Weakness

Scoring in Big Ten play. In seven Big Ten contests this season, the Hoosiers have only scored 0.857 goals per game. That equals Maryland’s total in conference action as well, which ranks last in the entire conference. The Hoosiers have had 96 shots in conference play, which ranks fifth in the Big Ten. While earning ample opportunities may not be the issue, finishing on them certainly has been.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland’s defense bounce back from its performance against Rutgers? The Terps got lit up for five goals on Thursday against the Scarlet Knights. Two of them were off penalty kicks, but that number is still concerning and it was apparent the defense was not on its A-game. Not much can be left to blame though, as the Scarlet Knights boasted one of the nation’s top-five offenses heading into the game. The Terps can put that performance behind them against an offense that has struggled in Big Ten play.

2. The Terps’ scoring attack showed signs of life against Rutgers, but it may be hard to sustain that against the Hoosiers. As mentioned above, the Hoosiers’ defense has been absolutely elite. The Terps have caught a tough draw playing the Big Ten’s best offense and the conference’s best defense in back-to-back games. But, if there was any time for the Maryland offense to come alive, it was on Thursday. If the Terps can continue to get quality scoring opportunities, they will have a chance against Indiana.

3. Can Maryland end its home season on a high note? With three games left to play, the Terps are on the brink of elimination from Big Ten Tournament contention. Maryland is seven points behind the teams tied for eighth-place and would need a miracle run to even qualify for the tournament. Despite that, the Terps have a ton of pride to play for, as head coach Ray Leone mentioned in Thursday’s postgame. Even with its negative results, Maryland has competed and has a chance to pick up its first Big Ten win in nearly two years Sunday.

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