COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The Maryland women's soccer team finished up its 2017 spring season with its annual alumni match in College Park.
The alumni match closed out a successful spring for the Terrapins, one that saw them play a style of soccer that impressed second-year head coach Ray Leone.
“I think we came together as a team throughout the spring,” Leone said. “We made big strides in our overall play on offense and defense. We just came together. They moved the ball well together and improved each and every week. We were aggressive this spring, and I think it's something we'll be able to take into the fall.”
Leone was particularly impressed with his backline, an aspect of the team that had an up-and-down 2016 season.
“We let up a lot of goals last fall so that was an area we focused on,” Leone said. “We did a much better job in the backline. Everything was really improved. You don't have a lot of time to get that cohesiveness once you get to the fall, so it was big for us to work on that over the past few weeks.”
Part of that cohesiveness can be attributed Maryland's returning players. The Terps see double digit players return that started matches last season, including top goal scorers Chelsea Jackson and Jarena Harmon, along with defensive standouts Jlon Flippens and Hope Gouterman.
“We have more numbers this spring than last and that made us more competitive in practice,” Leone said. “It also makes it more fun. We didn't have the numbers to have that last spring.”
That doesn't mean Maryland won't have new faces. A top-25 recruiting class and a handful of transfers will arrive in College Park in the fall. Two of those players have already arrived in midfielder Hope Lewandoski, a freshman from Ohio, and goalkeeper Andi Wenck, a transfer from Kansas State.
“It was nice to have two players to add in January because it made it come together more as a team,” Leone said. “You have to welcome new players and make sure they are embraced. They both played really well and they are both really well ingrained in the team already. That tells me that we are a strong group.”
That mix of new and old culminated in an improved quality of play late in the spring. Leone was particularly impressed with the squad's final two games; both of which that came on the road.
“The last game we played we did really well moving the ball. The results don't matter in the spring and that game was 0-0, but we just played better than we had previously,” Leone said. “We were organized on the road. I like how we performed and responded to different conditions. Those two road games were good for us.”
The alumni day was a perfect conclusion for the Terps, as current players and alums were mixed together in a 7v7 tournament.
“I loved that,” Leone said. “Meeting some alums I hadn't met before and seeing some that hadn't been back was great. I hope we can do more of that. It was fun to intermix the alums and current players.”
Leone was especially happy in the connection his current group of players were able to make with the deep history of the program, and believes it will help them grow as the move towards the season in August.
“It's very important for the young players to see that you are always representing the school. It educates the current players that what they are doing is bigger than just one person. It spans a lot of people and a lot of years. I like that our players were able to see that.”