Right-hander Sydney Golden knows her role on the Maryland softball team is far from the one she had as an underclassman.
Before transferring to Maryland, the senior played two years at Cal State Fullerton — just under an hour from her hometown of Riverside, California — where she was crucial in the rebuild of the Titans’ softball program.
Golden helped the Titans win back-to-back Big West Conference Championships for the first time since 2003, while also being named the Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year and selected to the Big West All-Freshman Team.
Now, as one of the Terps’ only seasoned veterans, Golden’s focus is not on herself, but instead on helping younger players — and the Maryland program — grow.
“It’s not for me at this point,” Golden said. “This year’s about me making sure that everyone is prepared for the next year and the years to come.”
Golden’s arrival came at a crucial time for the Terps: The team was coming off a last-place finish in the Big Ten and the second-worst team ERA in the conference. Luckily for Maryland, Golden was looking for a change right when the team desperately needed one.
“I mainly transferred from Fullerton to better my academics, better myself and have a different college experience altogether,” Golden said.
Meanwhile, her Cal State Fullerton pitching coach, Tori Tyson, was in the process of securing a position as the pitching coach for the Terps.
Golden had no idea that Tyson even interviewed for the job before making her decision, and said Tyson never talked to her about Maryland while considering her transfer options. But behind the scenes, Tyson was singing Golden’s praises to Maryland coach Julie Wright.
“[Tyson] was probably the biggest advocate [to coach Wright] for me to come here,” Golden said.
And when Golden got to speak with Wright, she was sold on coming to College Park after realizing how much the coach cared for her players, as well as the important role she would play in the program rebuild.
“We’re more than just softball players,” Golden said. “She really emphasized the fact that we just needed a few key pieces to turn it around, and that I could be one of the key pieces.”
Golden said she wanted to be a part of “something bigger than herself” and could bring experience to the program after shining on the team that made Cal State Fullerton’s turnaround.
The team culture, Golden said, has already improved in the two years she’s been at Maryland.
In the circle last season, Golden pitched in 40 games and amassed 51 strikeouts. This season, Golden leads a fairly new pitching staff with a 3.30 ERA and 44 strikeouts, seven of which came in the Terps’ Big Ten opener against Minnesota.
“She did a great job,” Wright said. “I was pleased with her start, her concentration and focus, and how she pitched herself out of some jams.”
Though the Gophers swept the Terps with a 5-3 win Sunday, Wright praised Golden’s performance in the circle, pinning the loss largely on defensive miscues that led to Minnesota’s four-run fifth inning.
“We need to clean that up, just a little bit, for her,” Wright said. “She was outstanding. … You just want to make sure that you’re prepared and doing the right things fundamentally that keep getting Sydney outs.”
Infielder Sammie Stefan said Golden’s team-first mentality shows when she’s in the circle.
“[Golden] does a great job at getting the ball on the ground so that we can make plays,” Stefan said. “She attacks the zone and makes sure that she does everything she can so we can get the out.”
With three new pitchers on the team this season, Golden has taken it upon herself to help guide the newcomers on and off the field. She and the other pitchers — Sami Main, Kiana Carr, Victoria Galvan and Amelia Jarecke — often sit down together to discuss her mentality while she’s pitching and the small in-game adjustments they can make when things aren’t going as planned.
Golden hasn’t found quite the same success in College Park as her two years in Fullerton, but the senior has taken an active role in bringing out the best of her team, and it’s working — the Terps’ 16 nonconference wins this season are the most they’ve ever had under Wright.
“I know I have the most experience out of everybody on the team,” Golden said. “So if I can bring that forward, it’s pretty cool to share that knowledge.”