In just its fourth game of the 2023 season, Maryland softball shocked the nation. 

The Terps came back to defeat then-No. 3 Oklahoma State in a win fueled by breakout sophomore Amelia Lech’s grand slam. It was Maryland’s first win over a top-three opponent in over five years and its second ranked victory — a mark that tied the prior season’s total.

Maryland looked like a program that could contend in the Big Ten and make its first postseason appearance since 2012. Everything seemed to be going right for coach Mark Montgomery in his fourth season.

But three months later, that early optimism proved faulty. Even though Maryland won its most games since 2011, it missed out on the NCAA tournament, finished seventh in the conference and lost Lech to the transfer portal.

After a loss to Baylor in February, Montgomery made it clear the then-No. 21 Terps weren’t satisfied with early success.“[Being ranked] doesn’t [define] who we are … are we ranked in May? Because if we’re ranked in May, we’re going to the NCAA tournament,” Montgomery said. “But being ranked in February or March is inconsequential.”

[Maryland softball’s season ends in NISC semifinals with 4-3 loss to Iowa]

His proclamation proved true. Maryland’s rank quickly disappeared as the Terps lost six of their first nine conference games and finished with an 11-11 record in Big Ten play.

An abysmal record in close games put a damper on the season. Maryland lost eight contests by three runs or less in conference games. The season ended with the Terps exceeding the modest accomplishments of previous squads, but still failed to reach the teams full potential.

“When’s the last time Maryland’s played meaningful softball games at the end of April in the beginning of May? It’s probably been a while,” Montgomery said. “We’ve got to understand that we’ve done really really well, be proud of ourselves, but not be satisfied.”

But the Terps did continue their upward swing. Since Montgomery took over as head coach in 2020, Maryland has improved its win total every season by at least seven games.

Maryland’s roster will see significant changes next year. It will lose Mackense Greico, who was tied for second on the team with six home runs in 2023.

[Maryland softball advances to NISC semifinals with 7-4 win over San Jose State]

The Terps will also be without Trinity Schlotterbeck, who will likely transfer to Florida Atlantic, Montgomery said. The biggest portal loss will be Lech. She is one of the portal’s most coveted hitters after leading the team in homers, runs batted in and walks with 16, 47 and 32, respectively.

Montgomery’s team will have to account for just over 56 percent of its RBIs from last season.

But it does return Courtney Wyche, who will use her last year of eligibility to return to College Park and give Maryland an ace in the circle after pitching to a 3.28 ERA in 2023.

She’ll join some emerging young players. Freshman Sammi Woods headlines a strong class of 2022 that will look to take a sophomore jump next year.

Next year’s team will potentially follow a similar recipe to the 2023 Terps. But Maryland will need to take the next step as a program if it wants to prevent an 11-year postseason drought from growing further.