Throughout Maryland field hockey’s 2023 season, the unique relationships between the Terps’ freshmen and fifth-year seniors were apparent on the field. Maryland trusted its oldest and youngest players over the course of the year, many of whom had their first or last chances to prove themselves.
The mix of youth and experience seemed to be a working combination for the Terps, and the two groups made sure to learn something from each other before their time together ended in the NCAA quarterfinals. Maryland’s young contingency gained valuable insight from their older counterparts that could help the Terps progress further in the future.
“The bright women that chose to play with COVID opportunities … they’ve given us so much this year,” Missy Meharg said. “We had one more year of this, but it’s quite a different landscape … It really was kind of neat to have such youth and then the older girls this year.”
Maryland’s starting freshmen, fifth-year seniors and graduate students made up a majority of the Terps’ starting lineup. Freshmen Josie Hollamon, Maci Bradford and Alyssa Klebasko, as well as fifth-year players Margot Lawn and Maura Verleg and graduate students Ashlyn Carr, Nathalie Fiechter and Sammy Popper, all notched more than 880 minutes throughout the season.
Maryland’s freshmen, fifth-years and graduate students helped fill a midfield void at the beginning of the year and contributed heavily to the Terps’ attack, tallying 35 of Maryland’s 54 total goals scored.
Bradford scored 10 of those goals in her first year of collegiate field hockey, good for the joint-second highest total on the team. The Terps’ experienced players helped freshmen hit the ground running on both sides of the field, including their goalkeeper in Klebasko and a defender in Hollamon, who said she looked up to many of the older girls and used their talents as competitive fuel.
“I honestly think the one who works her butt off every day and is an extremely hard worker is Margot,” Hollamon said. “We always go out to practice, battling with each other, we’re gonna go out there and we’re gonna win the 50-50 balls and we’re gonna work our hardest.”
The range of playing experience brought balance to the Terps. The fifth-year seniors’ and graduate students’ experience in high-pressure situations allowed them to be calm and focused in stressful moments, while Maryland’s freshmen brought a spark of energy, Lawn said.
The freshmen, fifth-years and graduate students’ willingness to make connections with teammates they had only spent a semester with kept the team close on and off the field.
The feelings of defeat after the Terps’ NCAA tournament quarterfinal loss sat differently with both sets of players as they left the pitch with different goals for the future.
The freshmen hope to use the lessons they learned from Maryland’s experienced bunch to help lead the Terps’ incoming classof six new players and find a way to improve after a season where Maryland failed to claim a Big Ten regular season or tournament title.
“The youth on this team is so exciting,” Meharg said. “Our incoming class that we just signed is as exciting and as talented, so just super excited about the generations of great field hockey student athletes that come to Maryland that choose us.”