When Maryland field hockey opens its preseason camp, coach Missy Meharg wants to facilitate a competitive scavenger hunt around campus.
The athletes and staff will be divided into teams as they traverse the grounds of the University of Maryland to locate some of its most unique spots.
But it’s not just a casual activity.
Stopwatches and timers will be all over. Scores will be kept. There will be winners, and there will be losers. It’s an idea Meharg got from Maryland baseball coach Rob Vaughn.
“We have so many new players and staff,” Meharg said. “Let’s figure out where we are and how great this campus is.”
Among these new members are her three assistant coaches. Two of them will likely do well with the activity. One might have some trouble.
Kasey Tapman Asper, a member of the Terps’ 2011 national champion team, and Sarah Holliday, a former Maryland goalkeeper, took on new staff positions during the offseason.
“They know the campus better than I do,” Meharg said.
This scavenger hunt should also be a great way for assistant coach Scott Tupper to get acquainted with the school. He’s also bringing quite the field hockey resume to Maryland.
The latest chapter in a storied hockey career
People in the field hockey world know who Scott Tupper is. The superstar defender is a three-time Olympian who’s currently competing in the 2020 Tokyo Games — and is the captain of the Canadian men’s national squad.
He hails from Vancouver, British Columbia, a field hockey hotspot in Canada. And he didn’t develop an interest in the sport from his family.
At 6 years old, he was introduced to field hockey after his friend’s father played for Canada in the Olympics. However, ice hockey remained the youngster’s primary sport for about the next 10 years, like a “typical Canadian,” he said. But something about field hockey made him continue.
“I did enjoy it a lot. It’s quite a skilled game,” Tupper said. “There was some transferability in the skills between ice hockey and field hockey, and it gets you moving around a lot.”
As Tupper got older, he realized his talents on the field hockey pitch. He took a trip to the Netherlands— one of the best countries in the world for field hockey and home to several Maryland players, including rising senior Bibi Donraadt. Tupper gained confidence when he was able to hang with some of the country’s best players.
Tupper, now 34, has competed in three Olympics Games and several Pan American Games. Before serving as an assistant coach at Lafayette College last year, he closely followed American collegiate sports and has known all about Maryland field hockey’s storied program.
And the program knew about him.
“I follow global hockey. I’ve known of Scott Tupper for forever,” coach Meharg said.
Tupper’s wife knows Meharg’s program even better. Meharg recruited Meredith Way, a Pennsylvania native, to play for the Terps after high school. However, Way chose to play for the University of Michigan instead.
“She always says the toughest thing she did in recruiting was have to tell Missy that she was going to go to Ann Arbor,” Tupper said.
Meharg hasn’t forgotten about it.
“Well, she’s now coming to Maryland,” Meharg said, laughing.
While Tupper has been in the midst of the biggest field hockey matches of his life lately, he’s still had some Zoom meetings and phone calls with the rest of his coaching staff — and they’re ecstatic to work with him.
“He’s a very, very excellent coach,” Kasey Tapman Asper said. “I can’t wait to also learn from him.”
Tupper has always had a motto: “Good enough is not good enough.”
It’s been applicable to the field hockey veteran at every stage of his playing career, and it’s just as important as a coach.
“Really finding that consistent best effort, rather than just settling for the ‘good enough’ is something I think as a coach, you’re constantly trying to navigate and figure out how to manage,” Tupper said.
From Talbot Hall to the sideline
Ten years ago, Kasey Tapman was a freshman on the Maryland field hockey team, sitting in her Talbot Hall dorm room. Little did the Pocomoke City native know that in just a few months, while redshirting, she’d become a national champion.
Now Kasey Tapman Asper, after marrying former Terps wrestler Josh Asper, found her way to Maryland in the footsteps of her older cousin, Kirstie Dennig, who also attended Pocomoke High School and played field hockey.
Pocomoke’s coach, Susan Pusey, was well-regarded in the state. She won 16 state championships in her 22 seasons at the helm — including all four years Tapman Asper was there, along with four more in the previous four-year stretch of Dennig’s high school career.
Pusey, who died suddenly in 2015, had a profound impact on her field hockey career.
“She’s definitely the reason why I am where I am now,” Tapman Asper said. “Field hockey was my love, because of the culture that she created for that team.”
People around the Maryland field hockey program have said that same thing about the Terrapins’ program — a love for the sport because of the culture Meharg has fostered. It’s a big reason why Dennig initially came to this university in 2009 and Tapman Asper followed in 2011.
“That’s why I’ve never left,” Tapman Asper said. “It’s just been home for me.”
People don’t have to know Tapman Asper that well to understand her passion for the field hockey program, the state and the university. Scott Tupper noticed it after a few video chats.
“She seems to me like someone who’s gonna know Maryland and sort of eat, sleep and breathe Maryland through and through, which is really cool,” Tupper said. “I know I’m gonna learn a lot from Missy, but I think I’ll probably learn a lot from Kasey as well.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tapman Asper started a company called UnTapped Talent. Its primary mission is to develop the growth of every field hockey player, whether young or old, male or female, beginner or experienced.
“To me, Kasey is invaluable because of just that love for the game,” Meharg said.
Not just a netminder
Both of Sarah Holliday’s parents are executive coaches, and she’s been training with them to become one, too. She is always working with people on personal and business development — which gives her perspective on how to work with people.
“Sarah’s background is in psychology, and in particular, team building,” Meharg said. “She’s an outstanding goalkeeping coach.”
This season, the volunteer coach will combine this skill with her passion and experience on the field hockey pitch as she works with Maryland’s goalkeepers.
“I like to focus my work on people,” Holliday said. “I’m super excited about the opportunity to get out and be on the field with the girls and connect with them again.”
While Holliday’s final season in black and gold came back in the fall of 2018, she didn’t graduate from the university until the winter of 2019, as she took the spring 2017 semester off to travel and play in Argentina. During the 2019 fall season, Meharg kept her around the team as a student coach.
And it wasn’t Holliday’s first time coaching field hockey. Right after graduating from Bullis School in Potomac, the Clarksville native began coaching her old club team, which she said started as a way to make money and stay active. But she quickly realized her affinity for working with people.
While she’ll be primarily working with the Terps’ goalkeeping unit, that’s far from her only field hockey experience. She moved between the pipes back in fourth grade — three years into her playing career — but still runs private lessons with a number of field players. And when she’s running practices, she always jumps into their scrimmages at the end.
“People are like, ‘Do you still play?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m retired from playing amateur or whatever, but I am not retired from dunking on little kids,” Holliday said, laughing. “And I will play with these kids and live my dream as an attacker and have a great time.”
Getting to campus
There’s going to be plenty of activity at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex this month. On top of preseason practices, Meharg will be hosting high school athletes for official visits — something she hasn’t been able to do for a while due to the pandemic.
On those visits, she and the coaching staff will show them the university’s campus. And since she has a pair of assistant coaches who she said know the campus better than she does, she is excited for how they’ll connect with the recruits.
“They’re far more authentic in speaking about [the university] because they’re a little bit closer to the age of the athletes that are looking at Maryland,” Meharg said.
The Terps’ roster for this fall has a wide range of experience. There are five newcomers — four freshmen and one transfer — while one player will be spending her sixth fall in College Park.
Goalkeeper Noelle Frost began her Maryland career in the fall of 2016, when she redshirted. In her first two seasons, she saw action behind Holliday — her new coach — before taking the reins in 2019. With an extra year of eligibility from her redshirting on top of her extra COVID-19 year, she’s back for her sixth fall with the Terrapins.
Safe to say, a team with Frost and Holliday wouldn’t have much of a problem with that scavenger hunt.