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Sep 27, 2012

Freshman defenders making a splash for Maryland

                            By Quinn Casteel | ACC Own the Pitch

The top-ranked Maryland Terrapins have had a phenomenal start to the season, in large part to the team’s dynamic offense which has posted 3.29 goals per game, good for second in Division I. However, one easy to overlook aspect of the undefeated Terps is their stellar back line which boasts the second stingiest defense in the ACC behind only North Carolina.

Dakota Edwards (Photo from Maryland Athletics).

Leading the defense and their impressive .61 goals against average through eight games are seniors London Woodberry and Taylor Kemp, along with freshmen Dakota Edwards and Mikey Ambrose.

While Woodberry and Kemp, who has missed the last three games with a leg injury, have been staples of the Maryland defense for the last three years, Ambrose and Edwards have taken on the role of filling in the holes left behind from last year’s unit. The two highly touted recruits have not only stepped in and played well, they have quickly made their presence felt in a way that has helped the entire team from the back all the way up to the forwards.

Mikey Ambrose (Photo from Maryland Athletics).

“They’re both very good, all of our freshmen have done a great job this year,” said Terps head coach Sasho Cirovski. “To be a back as a freshman at this level is very difficult and they’ve both been tremendous all year.”

“There’s a lot of potential there,” added Woodberry on the two freshmen. “Mikey is coming from the best team in the country, Dakota was Player of the Year in New York. They both have a lot of upside and you can see they have bright futures here.”

Ambrose, a Texas native and product of the FC Dallas Academy, is considered by many an elite MLS developmental player and brings a unique package of strength, speed and soccer intelligence to the table. He scored his first career goal last Friday night in a 2-0 win over Virginia Tech and has started all eight games this season at outside back. Ambrose is a cut 5-foot-9, 155 pounds with the strength to outmuscle an attacking player for the ball, and also possesses the speed to handle the ball and set up runs for the Terps’ offense.

“It’s been a lot of fun and playing with my team every day, being with them every day is so much fun,” said Ambrose. “Being able to celebrate shutouts and all the hard work we put into it just pays off.”

Meanwhile, Edwards, from Sayville High School just outside of Long Island, has also started all eight games on the defensive side and has played a big role in the team’s five shutouts. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds he the tallest defender on the Terps’ roster and he is a more traditional shutdown defender.

Edwards and Ambrose have fit right in on one of the most veteran and professional-style teams in the country this season, which speaks volumes to their level of experience and maturity. If the first eight games of their collegiate careers are any indication for the future, Maryland will not skip a beat next season when they have move on without Kemp, Woodberry and others.