By: Bryan Jones
The Maryland women’s soccer team has had a magical start to its season, starting 5-0-1. Yet, the fact that the team has already surpassed last season’s win total is not the most interesting thing about the Terps this year.
Instead, what makes this start to the season so special is the resiliency of the team and how it manages to stay competitive and win games that go into overtime.
While there are many explanations for why the team succeeds late, the increased roster size seems a crucial one. Whether freshman Mikayla Dayes is providing a spark on offense, or the Terps are utilizing their defensive flexibility that also gives players rest, Maryland has seemed to find a way to overcome early-game struggles.
Mikayla Dayes helped the Terps win their first overtime game on Aug. 25 at Gardner-Webb. Dayes scored two goals against the Bulldogs including the game-winner in the 104th minute. The performance against Gardner-Webb helped Dayes earn the Big Ten Freshman of the Week.
“[Dayes] is a natural player,” head coach Ray Leone said. “[It’s] very intriguing and unique the way she moves on the field.”
The Terps won two overtime games last weekend defeating both Richmond and George Mason. Chelsea Jackson hit the game winner against Richmond with nearly a minute left in double overtime while Jlon Flippens scored the game winner on a penalty kick against the Patriots.
“Of course we want to avoid overtime,” Jackson said after her game-winning goal. “We are learning game management, to play smarter when our legs are heavier and learning from the experience heading into Big Ten play.”
Leone agreed with Jackson joking, “we’re so young we need the extra time.”
However, Leone did not joke about how the the intensity ramps up in overtime and the team’s mindset when the game will be determined by the next goal.
“When its overtime, the time is over for fun and games,” Leone said.
The roster expanded from 20 to 33 this year and has helped Leone with his defensive flexibility. He wants to keep the lineups fluid and not keep the same defenders in the entire game.
Not only does Leone have flexibility, but he also has an opportunity to create competition for playing time. Leone is still mixing and matching with his roster before Big Ten play begins.
“People are getting opportunities at positions they are not comfortable with, but we are still learning,” he said.
The success in overtime is not being ignored by the veterans as Jlon Flippens remembers what it was like to be on the other end of a heartbreaking loss. The Terps were 0-3-1 last year in overtime.
“It’s a bit of relief that after all of overtimes, we are on the other side of that this year,” Flippens said. “We got a lucky bounce but this year it is bouncing our way.”
The Terps take on William & Mary (4-2) at Ludwig Field on Thursday at 7 p.m.