Following its second loss of the season to a team it was expected to beat, Maryland field hockey took a step back from the turf this week after the conclusion of its regular season.
Players and coaches took part in what coach Missy Meharg calls “Body, Mind, Spirit and Recovery” on Monday and Tuesday. The team indulged in thinking and breathing exercises, ice baths, massage therapy and yoga to get in the right mindset for the start of postseason play.
“It’s really helped the team,” goalkeeper Noelle Frost said. “[We’re] just getting a rest and being able just to catch up on homework so we’re not stressed academically and so we’re in a good space to go into the Big Ten tournament.”
Last year, the Terps ended the season with six straight wins after overcoming a 6-5 start. They made it to the semifinals of the conference tournament, where they fell to Penn State in a back-and-forth matchup, then went on a run to the NCAA title game.
This season, Maryland played better from the start, producing its best regular-season record since 2013. Players and coaches have made it clear that this team is fully locked in on winning the national title.
The first step comes this weekend in the Big Ten tournament, where Maryland enters as the No. 1 seed.
“Now that we’re getting into postseason and tournament play … there [are] no mess-ups anymore,” midfielder Riley Donnelly said. “You don’t get a second chance, really, so it’s do or die, per se. We’re just looking to play our best hockey every game.”
This year, Big Ten opponents pose a bigger threat than in past seasons. The Terps expect the conference tournament to be a close battle.
Seven of the nine teams in the Big Ten are currently nationally ranked. Along with Maryland at No. 2, Penn State, Michigan, Iowa and Rutgers are all ranked in the top 10. Northwestern sits at No. 22 and Ohio State ranks at No. 23.
Michigan State and Indiana — one of which will face Maryland in the conference tournament quarterfinals Sunday — are the sole teams that haven’t been ranked this year.
Each of the seven teams in the ACC is nationally ranked, but only two — North Carolina and Duke — are in the top 10.
“When we first came into the [conference] … it was predominantly an ACC show at the top level,” Meharg said. “Maryland is now in a [conference] that’s so competitive that it’s any man’s championship, any team can win it.”UMD used to be ACC but okay
The Spartans-Hoosiers play-in game is slated for Friday. The Terps already have wins over both teams this season, beating Michigan State 5-1 on Sept. 15 and Indiana 4-0 on Oct. 12.
But given this week’s loss to a low-ranked Virginia team — and the way Maryland fell short last season — the team knows nothing will come easy.
“When you get an opportunity to go that far along in the national tournament, you feel it and you want to get back there,” Meharg said. “We know we’re going to need to bring into our game to advance. Right now it’s all about advancing.”