Before Linnea Gonzales became the Big Ten Player of the Year for her team-high 33 points, the senior forward would line up after Maryland field hockey games, waiting for autographs from players she idolized, like Katie O’Donnell.
And when she became a ball girl, Gonzales remembers players yelling if she didn’t get the ball back quickly enough. She was impressed with how locked-in the Terps were.
After Logan Edmondson switched from cheerleading to field hockey in sixth grade, the junior defender watched Maryland to learn more about the sport. She, too, eagerly waited for the chance to meet and high-five Terp stars and admired how hard each one worked.
The slew of current players who supported Maryland as kids witnessed a golden era for the field hockey program, when national titles and ACC championships flowed with regularity between 2005 and 2011. Now, they have an opportunity to add to the history they grew up watching.
“It’s so rewarding when you look in their eyes,” coach Missy Meharg said. “They’re just so proud to wear the jersey and be on this field and look up at their signage, and they know what this is all about. It has its culture, it’s got its kind of championship way. … That’s what you expect and that’s what you dream about playing for.”
Meharg still remembers seeing midfielder Kyler Greenwalt and goalkeeper Sarah Holliday, among others, playing with their club teams at the Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex.
From 2005 to 2011, the Terps won five national titles, making it to the NCAA tournament finals six times. Maryland also won the ACC championship four times.
The Terps have consistently been a dominant force since then, but haven’t won a national championship since 2011. Now, players such as Gonzales, Holliday and Edmondson, along with a team stacked with players who were fans of the Terps growing up, are determined to bring the program another national title and raise a trophy of their own.
“Ever since [coming to my first game,] I fell in love with the program, the girls, the style of play,” Edmondson said. “It was just always something I wanted to emulate and be a part of and looked up to as a girl.”
Last season, Maryland came close before losing to UConn in the championship game. This year, the Terps finished with Big Ten regular season and tournament championships. They’ve knocked off 13 ranked opponents and have lost just twice. Maryland enters the NCAA tournament as the No. 2 overall seed.
Gonzales remembers watching Maryland beat North Carolina in double overtime of the 2010 title game. She admired how O’Donnell — now named Katie Bam and serving an assistant coach — was as a go-to player and leader. Gonzales hopes to do the same for the 2018 squad.
“It’s exciting to get the opportunity to compete in the NCAAs, that’s so cool,” Gonzales said. “We have a powerful group. As long as we stay focused and present and do it together, I think we can do it all.”
At one time, many of Maryland’s key contributors were in the stands watching past teams find glory. And now, those players are the ones giving out high-fives and autographs.
“I remember when I was little girl and they were winning it, so now it’s my turn to do that for the little girls,” Edmondson said. “I think it’s a different kind of inspiration for us that grew up around here.”