Missy Meharg has seen a lot during her 36 years at the helm of Maryland field hockey.
Her decades of experience and the ups and downs she’s faced with her teams didn’t just mold her into an accomplished coach — it made her an expert motto maker.
With seven national championships, 27 conference titles and 20 NCAA tournament semifinal appearances over her career at Maryland, Meharg understands how to compete in the postseason. Her quips remind her players of what it takes to succeed in the season’s most intense moments.
One of her sayings, “made for now,” has become the team motto that describes Meharg and her players’ mindset as they enter the postseason.
That sentiment is one Meharg passes down to the team’s leaders. While preparing for the NCAA tournament, co-captain Rayne Wright works to keep the Terps in the moment — ensuring the team remains focused and intense and that practice is productive each day.
“Preparing ourselves each day and every day and taking it step by step is the best part,” Wright said. “Continue through the Big Ten tournament, that’s the next thought. So we’re not even thinking about game two.”
In pre-game speeches, practices and team huddles, Meharg’s catchphrases are repeated. For example, Meharg tells her players to “have a serious IQ” to avoid being caught out on dead balls and key in on small details.
Graduate student Sammy Popper said Meharg’s mottos guide how she views the game and her team. Meharg’s phrase “play the first pass that you see” is a reminder to Popper to be decisive and make quick choices in high-pressure moments.
Like Meharg’s “made for now” motto implies, the coach has refused to think ahead to future games since the season began in August. Entering the Big Ten tournament, nothing has changed. The No. 3-seed Terps are focusing strictly on their first-round opponent, No. 6-seed Iowa.
The Terps and Hawkeyes met two weeks ago. Maryland came away with a 4-1 victory in what Meharg said was one of its best matches of the season.
Instead of looking forward, the Terps look back at previous matches to regain perspective on the upcoming ones. Maryland’s 5-1 loss to No. 1 Northwestern in its final regular season game has helped the Terps prepare for the tough opponents it’ll have to face if it wants to advance in postseason play.
“Taking a lot of lessons that we got from that Northwestern game and definitely switching our mindsets or play in our intensity and putting them into our Iowa game,” Wright said. “We have to be super critical of ourselves because a lot of the things were not because of them but because of us.”
Meharg’s short mottos have inspired small improvements that helped fuel Maryland’s past success. The Terps will hope they stick when they face their first postseason challenge on Thursday.