COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A year ago in his first preseason as Maryland head coach, Ray Leone readied a group of 20 players for the 2016 season, a lower number than most of his previous 25 season as a college head coach.
Now with the addition of 17 newcomers, combined with a core 16 players that accounted for 20 of the 21 goals Maryland scored last season, Leone has a full complement of options at his disposal to attack the 2017 season.
“There’s great work ethic from this group,” Leone said. “I’ve been really pleased with the intensity they are bringing in training. It’s been a good start.”
One of the keys to Leone’s ability to organize his group in the short three week window of the preseason is the presence of an experienced group of players; the Terps return nine players that started double digit matches, including top goal scorers Chelsea Jackson and Jarena Harmon.
“Our older players are teaching them things that we’ve been working on for a year; tactical and technical things that we believe in,” Leone said “They are quick learners and they’ve been doing the best they can to assimilate into what we are trying to do.”
Those returners include fifth-year senior Hope Gouterman. The Olney, Md., native emerged as one of Maryland’s most effective performers in the back last season and also stepped into a major leadership role, a duty she will once again have to perform this year.
“She gives all over herself in every practice and she’s always thinking of others when she’s out there playing,” Leone says. “She’s just a great leader.”
Gouterman has been impressed with how the team has performed in preseason so far.
“It’s really exciting,” Gouterman said. “There are a bunch of freshmen that have really made a statement. I’m looking forward to how the team meshes together. It’s going to be fun.”
That freshman class, ranked 25th in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer, will be a big part of Maryland’s 2017 efforts. Leone realizes that for the squad to be successful, team chemistry will need to come together quickly.
“We’ve got to spend almost as much time off the field together as on the field because of that,” Leone said. “We are making some progress, but we are going to do some fun things off the field to help that come together.”
With their opening scrimmage this coming Friday against Georgetown and the season opener Friday, August 18th against Drexel just around the corner, the Terps will be forced to test their cohesiveness against outside competition in short order.
Even if it means the locker room is a little more crowded than last year.
“The locker room is jam packed,” Gouterman said. “But all of the new faces have brought great energy and I think we are going to be able to build off what we did in the spring.”