With Maryland field hockey trailing Princeton 3-1 at halftime Tuesday, coach Missy Meharg felt she had to be brutally honest with her team.

It was the first time the Terps had trailed at halftime this season, and it was clear the Tigers posed the biggest threat to their undefeated start so far.

“The other team is winning the 50-50 balls, they have more heart than you and, quite frankly, this is not the standard by which we train,” Meharg told her squad. “So before you embarrass yourself completely, get out there and compete, because we’re an extraordinarily good team.”

At first, the message didn’t sink in — Princeton extended its lead to 4-1 early in the second half. But after that, a switch flipped in the team, defender Nike Lorenz said. Maryland came back and notched its ninth consecutive victory to start the year.

“Everybody was just like, ‘Well, it can’t go on like this,'” Lorenz said.

Lorenz said the realization got players to start communicating more effectively and offering each other positive support, allowing the team to come together and begin chipping into Princeton’s lead.

It was the largest deficit Maryland had faced this season — and the hardest it had to fight. Players and coaches said the game and the series of tough talks helped them build momentum.

“It’s always good to have a game like that just to test ourselves and kind of see where we’re at with teams like that,” defender Kelee Lepage said. “When you have great competition, it exploits your mistakes and your weaknesses. … We were able to improve off that.”

Maryland has two more games against ranked opponents — No. 23 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan — coming up this weekend. While neither are the top-five threat Princeton was, Meharg doesn’t anticipate the team having any sort of letdown after its most exciting and tenuous win of the season, and believes the team has learned lessons from the win that will pay off going forward.

“I don’t anticipate that this team will rest mentally,” Meharg said. “They’re very clear on what it feels like to compete at a certain intensity. Very clear, and Princeton gave us that opportunity.”