Alyssa Klebasko has had no choice but to trust her gut feeling during her 10 years as a field hockey goalie.
Klebasko spends most of her time on the net making split-second decisions. Since she first started in the cage at 8 years old, she’s used the mistakes she’s made to hone her instincts.
Her quick thinking has been on full display during her freshman year with Maryland field hockey — one in which she claimed the starting goalie position and is set to fulfill a lifelong dream as she prepares to suit up in net for the Terps in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
A Maryland native, Klebasko has been attending Terps field hockey games since she was 8 years old and served as a ball girl multiple times. During her freshman season, she has achieved more than just her goal of one day playing for the Terps — the team she spent so many years watching.
The goalie has played 942 minutes, notched 80 saves and earned plenty of accolades this season. The new member of the 2023 U.S. U-18 women’s national team was awarded Big Ten freshman of the week twice in October. She made the All-Big Ten second team after the regular season and the All-Big Ten tournament team after the Terps made it to the conference final.
“I have never seen anything like her … I think she is the best goalie I’ve ever seen in my field hockey career,” graduate student Sammy Popper said. “I’m blown away by her every day. And it’s not just like she plays these great games and has amazing plays and in the game. It’s every day in practice, like every single day she’s like performing the same way.”
With support from her backline, Klebasko has grown into a vocal leader — despite her lack of experience at the college level when compared to the Terps’ veteran defenders.
“It was definitely intimidating at first coming in as a freshman, but being a goalie I see the entire field,” Klebasko said. “I really have to direct everyone and when I’m screaming it’s just because I’m trying to help them out.”
The freshman operates under the mantra: “I can save a ball.” In high-intensity moments guarding the net, she maintains a short-term memory to manage her stress. No matter the outcome of a shot — whether it’s a goal scored or another save recorded — she focuses on the next play.
Klebasko’s positioning and movement in goal is systematic. She shifts her feet around in a semi-circle while keeping her belly button in line with the center of the cage to stay angled at the attacker.
“I read the attacker. So if I see that their eyes are down and there’s no pressure on the ball, that’s when I will step out and slide tackle or just stay on my feet and put pressure,” Klebasko said. “But if I see that my defender is right there, pressuring the ball, their eyes are up, I stay in the cage.”
The freshman hopes to rely on her sound fundamentals in the Terps’ biggest moments of the season. Maryland hosts the first round of the NCAA tournament against Old Dominion on Friday.
Coach Missy Meharg isn’t worried about having a freshman in net during the Terps’ tournament battles. Klebasko has shined in postseason play at the high school level before, and the coach believes her experience will help her succeed as the freshman prepares to fulfill her aspirations.
“I’m very excited to play in my first NCAA tournament,” Klebasko said. “I’ve come to Maryland for however many years, I’ve watched them play in the NCAA [tournament] in the past two years and advance to the Final Four. I’ve dreamed of having this moment since I was a little girl, and to be able to host is just amazing, as well.”