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St. Mary’s High graduate Meghan Ryan Nemzer takes over as Maryland women’s soccer coach

Maryland athletic director Damon Evans, left, presents a jersey to Meghan Ryan Nemzer, right, during her introductory news conference in December. Nemzer grew up in Crofton and is a St. Mary's High graduate.
Maryland athletic director Damon Evans, left, presents a jersey to Meghan Ryan Nemzer, right, during her introductory news conference in December. Nemzer grew up in Crofton and is a St. Mary's High graduate. (Zachary D. Bland)

Meghan Ryan Nemzer was in line to eventually become Rutgers’ women’s soccer coach.

Nemzer had more than paid her dues, spending 18 years as part of the Scarlet Knights program. The Anne Arundel County native started off as a standout player then transitioned to become director of operations, assistant coach and eventually associate head coach.

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“I’ve always said it would have to be something special to take me away from Rutgers,” Nemzer said.

Maryland offered that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that made Nemzer willing to leave Piscataway, New Jersey. Not only was it a chance to mold a program with a high upside, but it also meant going back home.

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Maryland announced Nemzer as its new women’s soccer coach Dec. 10 and she hit the ground running. Nemzer assembled a staff, met individually with current players, reached out to alumni and energized a struggling program.

“Meghan is a proven winner, a champion, who was born and raised in Maryland. We are excited for her to lead our women’s soccer program as we enter a new era,” Maryland athletic director Damon Evans said.

“Meghan had all of the attributes we were seeking: someone who has won at the highest levels in the sport; someone who understands what it takes to build a program; someone who has outstanding recruiting connections and contacts; someone who knows the Big Ten Conference and someone who has tremendous pride for the state of Maryland. She was the total package.”

Nemzer got a good feeling about the job the first time she interviewed with Evans and senior associate athletic director Shawn Flynn. She shared the same “vision and values” with those two administrators and believes the athletic department is fully invested in building a “championship culture” within the women’s soccer program.

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Meghan Ryan Nemzer with husband Joe and their daughter Bethany. Nemzer, the newly-named women's soccer coach at the University of Maryland, grew up in Crofton and is a St. Mary's High graduate.
Meghan Ryan Nemzer with husband Joe and their daughter Bethany. Nemzer, the newly-named women's soccer coach at the University of Maryland, grew up in Crofton and is a St. Mary's High graduate. (Zachary D. Bland)

Nemzer was raised in Crofton and attended St. Mary’s High, where she was part of a powerhouse program directed by legendary coach Jerry Tobin. She was a starting defender for two IAAM A Conference championship squads, earning second team Baltimore Sun All-Metro honors as a senior.

The 2001 St. Mary’s team, Nemzer’s senior squad, finished with a 21-1-1 record and included future Maryland players Ashly Kennedy and Sarah Sample. Those two former Saints and Terps were among the first to congratulate their old friend on being hired at Maryland.

“Ashly and Sarah Sample called me right away and were super-excited. I was thrilled to hear from them because we want to get former Maryland players involved with the program,” Nemzer said.

Nemzer suffered a torn ACL twice while at St. Mary’s and initially caught the coaching bug serving as somewhat of a student assistant under Tobin and assistant Pat Noel.

“It was important for me to stay involved with the team while I was injured, so I hung around the coaches and worked with the defense — just trying to be the best teammate possible,” she said.

That natural leadership, knowledge of the game and understanding of coaching concepts showed through at Rutgers, where Ryan was a co-captain for three straight seasons. After a senior season in which she was named honorable mention All-Big East Conference, Ryan was summoned to the women’s soccer offices by coach Glenn Crooks.

“I thought I was in trouble for keeping all my gear, so I brought it all with me to turn in,” she said. “Coach Crooks told me that if I stayed on the coaching staff, I could keep my gear.”

Ryan became a volunteer assistant for the Scarlet Knights. She gained additional experience as a club coach with Players Development Academy, leading the organization’s Arsenal squad to the Elite Club Nationals League Under-17 national championship.

When Mike O’Neill succeeded Crooks as head coach, Ryan was promoted to associate head coach and served eight seasons in that role.

“Mike did an incredible job of giving me a ton of responsibility and allowing me to do everything he did,” Nemzer said. “I felt as ready as ever and prepared as possibly could be to become a head coach.”

Meghan Ryan Nemzer with her husband Joe, daughter Bethany and parents John and Adrienne Ryan of Annapolis. Nemzer, the newly-named women's soccer coach at the University of Maryland, grew up in Crofton and is a St. Mary's High graduate.
Meghan Ryan Nemzer with her husband Joe, daughter Bethany and parents John and Adrienne Ryan of Annapolis. Nemzer, the newly-named women's soccer coach at the University of Maryland, grew up in Crofton and is a St. Mary's High graduate. (Zachary D. Bland)

Nemzer was in charge of opponent scouting at Rutgers and therefore evaluated Maryland many times. She believes there is plenty of talent and untapped potential within the program, which was previously led by another Anne Arundel County resident in Ray Leone.

Leone, a Severna Park High graduate, did not have his contract renewed after compiling a 27-60-18 record in six seasons at the helm.

Maryland women’s soccer has managed only one winning season since 2012 and Nemzer knows the key to turning things around is recruiting. She is laser-focused on attracting talent from the D.C.-Maryland-Northern Virginia region and also plans to venture into Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“I really believe Maryland is a sleeping giant right now because the amount of talent in the immediate area and surrounding states,” Nemzer said. “There are something like a dozen top clubs within an hour drive of the College Park campus. We need to put a fence around the DMV because it’s critical to keep the local talent home.”

Ryan Nemzer will be joined at Maryland by her husband, who has served as head coach of women’s soccer at Mount St. Mary’s and Delaware Valley. Joe Nemzer will serve as a volunteer assistant with the Terps. The couple has a 14-month old daughter named Bethany Marie.

Nemzer began dreaming of playing college soccer while watching Maryland as a middle and high school student during the six-year tenure of coach Shannon Higgins-Cirovski when the stands at Ludwig Field were full, winning records were an annual occurrence and “there was just a lot of pride in the program.”

Her message to high school and youth players in the DMV region is that the excitement surrounding Maryland women’s soccer is headed for an all-time high. She has already begun perfecting the recruiting pitch to keep the top local talent from going elsewhere.

“Buy stock now because it’s a good day to be here. Tomorrow is going to be a better day, and you’re going to be part of something that is going to change the culture,” she said. “For my local Maryland girls, be Maryland legends. Come home, change the program, change the culture. Instead of being part of something, build something special that you’ll always come back to.”

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