During her playing days, Maryland field hockey coach Missy Meharg was a center forward.
But it’s been more than a decade since she was as hands-on with her team’s attack as she has been this season.
For the first time in 12 years, by Meharg’s estimation, she is primarily working with the Terps’ goal scorers. An offseason coaching shuffle meant it made most sense for Meharg to focus on the front line for the first time in any of the current players’ careers.
“It’s different. For my past four years, [former assistant coach Dina Rizzo] was always the attacking coach and Missy would go with the defense,” forward Emma Rissinger said. “But this year Missy’s with us.”
After six years on the Terps coaching staff, Rizzo accepted an assistant coaching job at Princeton this summer under coach Carla Tagliente, who played alongside Rizzo during their playing careers at Maryland.
Meharg helped fill the vacancy by hiring Stefanie Fee, who started in every game during her four-year career at Duke, ending in 2011. She’s spent significant time with the U.S. Senior National Team since then, including a trip to represent her country at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Fee, who has been a defender her whole career, primarily focuses on the Terps’ defense. It’s a role Meharg occupied in recent years.
“[Fee] just kind of fits right in,” defender Delaney Leathers said. “She just slides into the defense.”
That left an opening at the front of the Terps’ attack, so Meharg took over.
She was happy with the unit’s performance after the Terps beat California, 5-1, and American, 6-2, over the weekend. They’re hoping to continue that string of results Saturday, when they host Indiana in the first Big Ten game of the year.
“We scored 11 goals last weekend. I think I’m doing pretty well,” Meharg said.
Despite spending the majority of her time with the forwards, the veteran coach hasn’t left the backline completely.
While associate head coach Joppe de Vries coordinates the team’s penalty corner offense, Meharg works with their penalty corner defense. She’s built up a wealth of experience coaching defenders through her playing and coaching career.
“That’s what I liked about coaching defense for so many years, I know as a center forward what it’s like to play against a really good defender,” Meharg said. “That was fun for all those years, but I like coaching the attack now.”
She focuses on the intricacies of the attack, rattling off the multitude of variables that go into an offensive player’s decision-making and execution. But she also works on making sure her players aren’t stagnant or anchored to their positions on the field.
“She’s emphasizing moving … if you’re a right forward, don’t just stay on the right side of the field,” Rissinger said. “We do a lot of [interchanging] in our drills, it’s kind of chaotic, and it’s meant to be like that.”
Creating that chaos while staying controlled within it seemed to pay off against Cal and American, as nine different players tallied a goal or an assist on the weekend.
“Her drills are really good and useful,” Rissinger said. “You could see parts of them in the game and how we could use them,”