Maryland women’s lacrosse’s graduate students returned to coach Cathy Reese and the Terps for a fifth season in 2024 in a desire for one last feat — a national championship win.

The Terps’ graduate students are a decorated group, but could be the first set of players to leave the program without an NCAA championship since the 2009 graduating class. They have one last opportunity to fulfill their goal of hoisting the national championship trophy and leave a legacy for the next crop of Maryland players to don the Terps’ jersey.

“It’s definitely something that I think is in reach for us every single year,” midfielder Shaylan Ahearn said. “It’s always a driving force and factor to come back and win it.”

Maryland won the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles in 2022 when the class was in its junior year. It advanced to the Final Four that season, but lost to Boston College by one goal. The last time the Terps reached the title game and won was in 2019 — the year before this season’s graduate students arrived.

[Maryland women’s lacrosse earns No. 4 seed in NCAA tournament]

Maryland enters the NCAA tournament as the No. 4 seed. It begins its path toward the national title against Robert Morris on Friday at the Maryland Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex.

With many graduate students leading the way, the team holds some of the Terp’s most prolific players.

Attackers Libby May and Hannah Leubecker enter the tournament with a combined 404 career goals. Goalkeeper Emily Sterling has thwarted 657 shots, good for fourth in program history. Ahearn has tallied 406 draw controls heading into Friday’s first round contest — third in program history.

Defender Brianna Lamoureux scooped 89 ground balls and caused 36 turnovers in 77 career games. Rutgers transfer and fellow graduate student Meghan Ball joined her to lead a top-ranked defensive unit.

But despite personal accolades, success in the NCAA tournament eluded this group of standout players.

Maryland lost in the second round in 2021 and 2023, and came two wins away from being crowned champions in 2022. The 2020 season — when the graduate students were freshmen — was canceled because of COVID-19. The Terps have only won four NCAA tournament contests after their 2019 national title.

[Chrissy Thomas’ emergence has deepened Maryland women’s lacrosse’s attack]

But the postponed 2020 campaign created “one of the closest Maryland teams” Leubecker said she has been a part of.

“Team chemistry is huge,” Leubecker said. “It’s been exciting through each year as the restrictions have loosened up to be able to spend a lot of time together.”

A majority of the class played with or against each other before arriving at Maryland either on club teams or in high school, Leubecker added. Leubecker said the reason she came to Maryland was for the chance to compete at the highest level of lacrosse in high leverage games.

Libby May felt similarly after seeing her sister, Catie May, become a national champion with the Terps in 2019.

“I remember sitting in the stands watching her national championship game, and I had goosebumps,” Libby May said. “I was so excited to come to Maryland.”

While winning a national championship is on everyone’s mind, most said there’s more they want to be remembered for when they leave the program. The graduate student group stands to not only become national champions, but also leave a strong culture of belonging.

“These guys have come in and they’ve really learned a lot about themselves,” Reese said. “Their journey has been very unique.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated that the Terps have won four NCAA tournament contests after their 2010 national title. They won four after their 2019 national title. This story has been updated.