With fifteen minutes before the Maryland field hockey team was set to start practice, the squad congregated around its locker room, the sound of sprinklers filling the air.
As water droplets fell onto the field with increasing intensity, the thwacking sound of field hockey sticks hitting balls only grew louder as two players worked on their stickhandling and passing skills.
It’s a common sight to see; the Terps have remained dedicated to continuous practice despite an early start to the school year that forced coaching staff to make adjustments to the training regimen.
And regardless of their training schedule changes, Maryland has looked well-rested and prepared to take on the challenge of “double weekends” — weekends in which it takes on two teams in three days. After impressing in their first double weekend of the season, the Terps are prepared to continue thriving amid their challenging slate, with matchups against No. 13 Boston College and No. 3 Duke up next.
“Having classes start on Monday and missing those two-a-days was little bit different for us,” coach Missy Meharg said. “I couldn’t have been more pleased with the number of shots we took.”
Typically, Maryland’s season starts before the school year, allowing players to sharpen their skills and fitness before being drowned in academics.
But with the season starting later, the Terps’ coaching staff was forced to alter certain elements of training to allow players to get settled in their new classes.
“We’re starting early this year,” Meharg said. “It’s kind of different that the games start five days after practice starts.”
Any potential concerns were assuaged in Maryland’s two games last weekend, as the Terps outscored their opponents 10-1 en route to two convincing wins.
The Terps’ quick adjustment can be partly attributed to budding rapport between the squad that has grown stronger over the course of the weekend. While the team is still getting used to playing with one another, it is showing signs of improvement in that regard.
“We are definitely working on our connections,” midfielder Brooke DeBerdine said. “It’s gotten a lot better from Friday to Sunday.”
And given the quality of their upcoming opponents as well as the Big Ten/ACC Cup’s similarities in pace to postseason competition, Maryland is upping the intensity in its training sessions.
“It feels very much like a final weekend of a Big Ten championship or a final four,” Meharg said. “It’s a Friday-Sunday format, so we’re taking it just like that.”
With games coming in rapid succession, the team is aiming to centralize its focus on aspects of the game that it can control.
“We generally try to focus on our performance and what we can do better,” defender Hannah Bond said, “rather than looking at the other teams and how we’re going to change our game to fit them.”
Meharg’s squad has been effective in its transition to the unusual early-season training session. Consequently, in spite of the talented rosters they’re set to face off against over the weekend, the Terps enter the Big Ten/ACC Cup feeling relaxed and even-keeled.
“It gives a good overview of how the rest of the season is going to go,” Bond said. “If it doesn’t go how we want to, it shows us what we need to build on and improve going from there.”
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story’s headline said this would be Maryland field hockey’s first “double weekend” of the season. It is the team’s second. The headline has been updated.