The Maryland women's soccer team's 25th-ranked freshman class displayed its promise at Ludwig Field against Drexel on Friday night.
Forward Mikayla Dayes and midfielder Hope Lewandoski — both first-year starters — notched goals in the Terps' 2-1 win over the Dragons.
It was a welcome sign of improvement from the Terps, who are hoping to rebound from a 3-15-1 finish in 2016.
"As a group, all 14 of us [freshmen], we're just excited to add to this team," Lewandoski said. "We just want to bring a new energy and create a new culture with this group. Make our team a winning group again."
Maryland controlled the tempo of the game early on, as its high press forced Drexel to clear the ball long and play without rhythm. The Dragons put only one shot on target in the first half.
In the waning minutes of the half, Dayes effortlessly turned around a Drexel defender and pushed the ball out wide. She continued her run into the box and headed a cross into the grasp of Dragons goalkeeper Christiana Ogunsami. The save kept the game scoreless heading into the break.
But Dayes was only getting started.
Minutes into the second half, she turned 25 yards away from goal and launched a shot into the top-left corner to give the Terps a 1-0 lead. Dayes said it was an instinctive effort.
"I've seen Mikayla play many, many times," said coach Ray Leone. "She can score all kinds of goals."
However, the Terps conceded an equalizer one minute later. After a chipped pass over the top of Maryland's high defensive line put Drexel's Vanessa Kara in alone on goal, the junior slipped her shot past goalkeeper Rachel Egyed.
Once the Dragons drew level, the game opened up, with each team threatening. Lewandoski said the Terps' main focus during that period was to keep their energy up and respond. Soon, it was her time to step up.
In the 64th minute, Drexel headed a Maryland corner kick clear, but Lewandoski collected the ball with one touch, turned and volleyed the ball from distance to beat Ogunsami again.
"No one was on me and I just had time," Lewandoski said. "So I just took the shot. … Whatever works, I guess."
The Terps withstood a barrage of Drexel attacks over the final half-hour, remaining compact and keeping the Dragons from creating quality chances.
After winning neither of its first two games last year, Maryland opened the 2017 season with a victory, which represents a positive step for the team.
But Leone was more impressed that the Terps' freshmen provided a glimpse of the team's future in their first games.
"I'm happy for everyone because the freshmen are brand new and still learning," Leone said. "I'm really proud of the older players that kind of are helping them along."