The Maryland field hockey team’s history and distinguished roster intimidated midfielder Kyler Greenwalt when she arrived in College Park for pickup games over the summer.
Like many of her future Terps teammates, she had a decorated high school career, emerging as the first freshman to earn a spot on the varsity field hockey team’s roster at Archbishop Spalding High School.
Still, Greenwalt felt anxious.
Midfielder Brooke Adler helped eliminate Greenwalt’s doubts, explaining that a willingness to improve would be rewarded with playing time. Despite what she called a rough start, Greenwalt has made an immediate impact — she scored her first two career goals against Bucknell on Sept. 17 and has found the net six times on the season.
As the Terps (15-6) prepare to face No. 3-seed Michigan (21-2) in the final four in Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday, Greenwalt’s nerves have subsided. She is one of five freshmen to receive consistent playing time, but her maturity has allowed her to play like a veteran.
“They have no idea that they’re freshmen,” said coach Missy Meharg, who has led the Terps to their 17th final four appearance during her 30-year stint at Maryland. “I look at their eyes and I kind of just look away, because I don’t want them to know how amazed I am.”
In the weeks leading up to the NCAA tournament, Meharg spoke to Greenwalt about being consistent throughout the regular season. She urged the Gambrills native to discover how to overcome struggles.
During a meeting with Greenwalt in September, Meharg and assistant coach Katie Bam evaluated Greenwalt’s early-season performance. The talk focused on how to better position on Maryland’s defensive press.
Over the past two weeks — which have featured a loss to Penn State in the conference tournament and wins against Wake Forest and Duke in the NCAA tournament — Greenwalt believes she’s peaked in that area.
“She’s so gritty and energetic and always wants to be in the play,” Adler said. “She’s always in the right places on the circle. She has come in and made a huge impact as a freshman.”
Greenwalt’s peers have followed suit. Defender Bodil Keus, who is tied with midfielder Lein Holsboer for the team lead in scores, earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. Midfielder Brooke DeBerdine’s speed proves valuable for the Terps’ defense. She has also emerged as an offensive threat, scoring for the first time in Maryland’s Big Ten tournament quarterfinals win against Michigan State. Defenders Hannah Bond and Sophie Giezeman, from England and the Netherlands, respectively, have helped fortify the backline.
None of Maryland’s freshmen scored in their first matchup against Michigan — a 3-2 double-overtime loss in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The decisive shot from the Wolverines came in the final second. The players haven’t forgotten how they felt departing Phyllis Ocker Field.
This weekend’s trip to Louisville will bring a series of firsts for the program’s youth. On Thursday, an NCAA banquet and formal dinner celebrated the top four teams’ accomplishments. Friday will be their first semifinals matchup. On Sunday, they want to be playing for Maryland’s ninth national title.
From the moment Greenwalt arrived on the campus, her confidence in Maryland’s championship aspirations never wavered.
“[The team’s] heart, their belief, their energy, their presence is super spot-on,” Meharg said. “It’s pretty phenomenal what kind of output, outcome, points and minutes [the freshmen are] giving us. That’s a little bit different than any final four team I’ve ever coached.”