When the ball ricocheted into the net off Maryland women's soccer defender Jenna Surdick on Sunday, thanks to pressure from Iowa defender Morgan Kemerling, the Terps continued an unfortunate trend.
Maryland conceded the first goal for its fifth consecutive match. The Terps have lost four of those five with their only point coming in a 2-2 draw against then-No. 12 Wisconsin. Opponents have outscored the Terps by a combined 14-3 in those contests.
While the Terps have struggled on defense, goalkeeper Rachel Egyed has impressed, making 13 saves over that stretch.
With her strong form, the Terps hope to shore up their defensive frailties against No. 12 Ohio State on Thursday and No. 13 Penn State on Sunday.
"We need to be stronger as a whole both on offense and on defense," midfielder Hope Gouterman said. "That's our focal point right now, trying to keep everything tight and play as a unit instead of kind of veering away from that."
Egyed was particularly impressive against Nebraska on Thursday. Although the Terps (7-5-2, 1-5-1 Big Ten) lost, 3-0, she notched five saves while under constant pressure from the Cornhuskers, who rattled off 15 shots to Maryland's three.
Among those five saves were a diving, palmed stop on a Nebraska breakaway, and a thwarted penalty kick, flying low to her right. She said in instances where the Terps are struggling to hold up at the back, she can serve as inspiration.
"That kind of made me feel like we needed some kind of solid base and motivation to start with," Egyed said. "That can be me. It starts from the back and works its way all the way up through the whole team, so it was just trying to build that confidence back up."
But when the momentum isn't in Maryland's favor, it's struggled.
After Maryland's 3-1 loss to Minnesota on Oct. 1, coach Ray Leone lamented the Terps' early two-goal deficit. They've trailed by at least two goals in each of their past five contests.
Egyed said the Terps would like to limit the leaks and gain the lead first, but "that's part of the game."
The Terps have been trying to maintain a positive attitude, Egyed added. She feels the big deficits come when the team gets down on itself.
"Our response is really telling of which way we're going to go," Gouterman said. "It's more about an attitude over anything."
Egyed and Gouterman agreed Ohio State (11-2-1, 6-1-0) and Penn State (9-3-1, 5-1-1) will prepare for Maryland as any other team would, regardless of their status near the top of the conference.
The Terps will aim to upset the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions by maintaining their optimism and plugging the gaps on defense behind Egyed.
"We're using everything as a learning experience and realizing that mistakes were made," Egyed said. "Wherever the breakdown was, recognize it, figure out what we can do to fix it, then work on not making the same mistakes."