Emily Sterling could barely contain her anticipation on Maryland women’s lacrosse’s bus ride to see the newly-renovated Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex. Players were largely hands-off in the development process. She had no idea what awaited her.

“We immediately just felt like home walking in through that front [door],” Sterling, the team’s graduate student goaltender, said.

After a season displaced to SECU Stadium, the Terps are back at “The Plex” for Wednesday’s 2024 home opener. The two-story, 17,193-square-foot facility is more than triple the size of the old structure.

For the first time, Maryland women’s lacrosse has a facility that encompasses all of its needs and matches the allure of a program with 15 national championships.

The building re-opened in December after more than a year of construction. Maryland field hockey used the field last fall, but didn’t have access to the building.

A first glimpse inside the facility shows why the two teams deserved an upgrade.

Trophy cases in the building’s foyer display dozens of national and conference championships. Women’s lacrosse has 15 national titles and 15 conference crowns. Field hockey adds another eight NCAA and 12 conference championships. A wall covered with decades worth of the teams’ most notable names and faces surrounds players when they step through the entryway.

[Emily Sterling proved her All-American status in Maryland lacrosse’s win over Syracuse]

On that wall is coach Cathy Reese, who has spearheaded the growth of Maryland women’s lacrosse. She has led the Terps for 18 years, and played for them in the 1990s.

“It’s something that Cathy has deserved as a head coach for a long time,” Alex Aust Holman, the team’s director of player development, said. “I still get choked up and teary eyed when I walk in there.”

Reese has been a player or coach on 12 of Maryland’s NCAA championship teams. No other Division I women’s lacrosse program has more than eight titles. Every other Maryland athletic program has a combined 13 NCAA titles since Reese’s freshman year in 1995.

Her freshman home games were played at Denton Field, located where the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center now sits. According to previous reporting from The Diamondback, it held about 500 spectators, just over one-third of the current complex’s capacity. Its grass playing field was described as “sloppy” and “cramped” by The Diamondback at the time, and didn’t have lights.

The team’s locker room was in Varsity Team House, which meant players had to walk around the football stadium to get to their own field.

“That was a hike to get from the locker room up to the stadium,” Reese said.

The women’s lacrosse team’s primary home was Ludwig Field from 1996 until 2003, when the current complex opened. Practices were held on an astroturf field next to the baseball stadium, Reese said. If weather conditions were bad, the turf would also be used for games. At least once, poor conditions forced the Terps to play a home game at Loyola Maryland.

Reese knows how far her program has come. She isn’t taking the estimated $11 million facility for granted.

[No. 9 Maryland women’s lacrosse beats No. 5 Syracuse in overtime battle, 9-8]

Reese and her assistants’ old offices were in Xfinity Center — she could barely fit her assortment of trophies in her space. Many players did treatment in Xfinity Center on weekends as well, since The Plex’s treatment room couldn’t always accommodate everyone, Sterling said.

The new facility’s treatment rooms are much more spacious. So are the team and coaches’ meeting rooms. Their walls grace quotes, photos and other decorations celebrating the rich history of women’s lacrosse and field hockey at Maryland. A new video board adjacent to the field aims to increase the energy at games.

And Reese’s office has plenty of room for her hardware.

Aust Holman, who won National Attacker of the Year as a Terp in 2013, said the new locker room is the biggest upgrade. The old one had low, paneled ceilings, wood lockers players could choose to decorate and was smaller than the new one. The new space is modern, spacious and decked with Maryland decals. Each locker is customized for its player.

“Going from us sitting on the floor, looking up at Cathy pregame to now, they have their own reclining seats and their own space to call home is really, really cool,” Aust Holman said.

The building also hosts multiple team lounges, providing players a space to study, do homework, relax and spend time with each other. That luxury has brought the team closer together, graduate student attacker Hannah Leubecker said.

“Having the team room and having the locker room as a place where people want to be,” Leubecker said. “We all have a space now that we can hang out and be close.”

Maryland’s home opener at the complex is Wednesday against Drexel. The Terps beat the Dragons twice last season, including in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

They prepare for that match back at Maryland women’s lacrosse’s permanent home — with added comfort and without the stress of navigating its past shortcomings.

“There’s no better energy and atmosphere than playing here at this complex,” Aust Holman said. “It’s cool to be back and have our games where you feel like Maryland lacrosse was really built.”