Early offense boosts women’s soccer to first Big Ten victory

The University of Maryland women’s soccer team scored two goals in the first five minutes and cruised their way to a 3-1 victory over the Illinois Fighting Illini Thursday night in College Park. The win was their first at Ludwig Field this season, and evened their record to 1-1 in Big Ten play. It was Maryland’s first win since August, as they had dropped five games straight, including a 1-0 loss at Rutgers last Friday.

The Terps got on the board barely three minutes in, as Madison Turner fed the ball to Jarena Harmon, who kicked it past the diving Illini goalkeeper for her team-leading the seventh goal of the season. Less than two minutes later, Chelsea Jackson found the back of the net on another assist from Turner, extending the lead to 2-0 early. Harmon added another goal later in the half, knocking it in after Cassie Phillips’ header banged off the left post.

Harmon now has two multi-goal games this season, including a hat trick August 25 at the College of William and Mary, and her eight goals top the seven she scored last year for the University of Pittsburgh.

At halftime, Illinois subbed out starting goalkeeper Michelle Denley, replacing her with Claire Wheatley. What Denley couldn’t do, Wheatley could, as she kept the Terps off the board in the second half, making two saves.

But the Terrapins played an equally strong defense, as the Illini outshot the Terps 16-9 but were held to just one goal, a first half shot by Allison Stucky.

“Both teams brought it, that’s what made the game so exciting,” Terps’ head coach Ray Leone said after the game. “It could’ve gone either way, but what a wonderful performance by our girls.”

Maryland goalkeeper Katelyn Jensen made seven saves after allowing the early goal. She was aided by a strong defensive effort in front of her, as the Terps refused to give in even as the Illini continued to press and create shots in the second half.

“We talked about it at halftime about how they were going to be coming out super hard with everything they have,” Turner said of the team’s defensive plan. “[Jensen] did great in goal, and just defending as a team…we kept them on their heels even on a couple of chances in the second half.”

Thursday marked the fourth time this season that the Terps scored three goals, compared to just one for the entire 2015 season. Their 17 goals to date match their team total from last year.

Harmon credits the team’s success to getting to know each other and learning to play as a unit.

“Knowing each other and knowing how we’re playing and how people like to play…that was it,” she said after the game. “You can tell in practice, we’re all getting there, we’re all becoming a true team and a family.”

The Terps (3-6-1, 1-1-0 Big Ten) have a quick turnaround after Thursday’s game, as they face the undefeated Northwestern Wildcats (9-0-0, 2-0-0 Big Ten) at Ludwig Field Sunday afternoon.

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