Aug. 21, 2008
The 2007 campaign looked to be another year of destiny for the Terrapins after coming off back-to-back National Championships in 2005 and 2006, the core of the team returning, the addition of highly-talented freshmen and the “Final Four” taking place at the Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex, their home field. But Maryland fell one game shy of the final weekend, however, and was reminded of what it missed out on watching the national championship from the stands and not from the field. It was the first time in five years the Terps did not advance to the national semifinals.
“Our players, staff and program were proud to host our first NCAA Championship games,” said head coach Missy Meharg, who celebrated her 20 years on the Maryland sidelines last season. “We fell short, losing to Penn State, and it was a humbling experience to have this event on our home field, but we learned valuable lessons. The players acted with such pride throughout the weekend and realized the true sense of not taking things for granted. From this we have grown, regrouped and taken ownership of what we need to do to succeed in the postseason.”
The new calendar year has seen a rejuvenated Terrapin squad. Spring workouts and competitions have been ramped up with players taking advantage of the opportunity to improve and build on what was learned the previous season. Maryland returns almost every player from last year’s team, 15 in all. Of the 15 returning letterwinners, a core group of juniors and seniors were members of the ‘05 and ‘06 national championship teams.
Maryland will miss its two major losses in midfielder Janneke van Leeuwen and goalkeeper Kathryn Masson, both All-Americans. Also graduating was Kim Ziegler, a workhorse on the field on the forward line. However, among those the Terps welcome back are Honda Award finalist Katie O’Donnell, a member of the U.S. National Team, veteran defender and two-time All-American Susie Rowe and 2006 All-American Nicole Muracco.
Maryland will turn up the excitement in 2008. The Terps will play with flair, energy and excitement from baseline to baseline with the entire team getting involved in the offense. Look for a highpaced, high-scoring brand of play as Maryland looks to make a return to the national semifinals in Louisville, Ky., where they won the program's fourth national title in 2005.
Maryland was among the top three in the nation in offense a year ago and the unit returns intact. O’Donnell arrived on campus as a freshman and hit the ground running. The U.S. National Team member led the nation in points per game (2.52), while ranking fourth in goals (0.86) and assists per game (0.81). She was a Honda Award finalist and an All-American, while also becoming the first-ever Terrapin to win an ACC player of the year honor as a freshman, being tabbed the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.
“Katie brings a more fierce scoring-minded style of play,” Meharg said. “She had a great first year, but she’s learned some new tricks while with the national team for half the year.”
Muracco is another All-American returning to the forward line. Now a junior, she followed up an ACC Rookie of the Year campaign with an almost equally impressive sophomore season, using finesse around the cage to score goals. As a junior, however, she brings a more complete game, which includes playmaking, as well as a scoring knack.
Senior Sarah Scholl enters her final campaign as a Terrapin and has been a model of consistency on the forward line. Her workhorse mentality will set the example for the underclassmen as they adjust to the Maryland system. A bright student-athlete, earning national and conference academic honors every season, she has worked on her shot selection to complement her dishing mentality.
Sophomore Meghan Dean, a member of the U.S. Under-21 team, will make her way back to the forward line where she was a high school All-American. Classmate Mary Reilly saw limited playing time last season but has a powerful shot and has improved her confidence on the field. Also joining the Terrapins on the forward line is Cornelia Duffin who brings size and power to the front line, and Brigitte Strother, a local product from nearby Annapolis, Md., who has a high workrate with a scoring mentality.
Transition play will be a key for the Terps in 2008, which will steer the high-powered attack Maryland plans to implement. A big loss for the midfield unit is van Leeuwen, who was a cog in the lineup for four seasons. However, the core of Ameliet Rischen, Alexis Pappas and Kristina Foster, all juniors, and senior Danielle Keeley, are interchangeable on the line.
Rischen returns as a two-year starter in the midfield, earning NFHCA Mid-Atlantic All-Region honors as a sophomore. Hailing from the Netherlands, she focused on strength training in the spring and continues to develop in that area.
Pappas has settled into a role in the midfield after making the move from the forward unit as a sophomore. She, along with Rischen, has worked on releasing the ball quickly and keeping the tempo of the game moving.
Foster has outstanding technical skills, but the spark she provides coming off the bench can not be quantified. She brings terrific energy that is contagious and works hard the entire time on the field.
Incoming freshman Michelle Lane has played defense primarily in her career, but will be moved to the midfield unit to have more opportunities to get more involved on the field and develop her skills.
Maryland’s outstanding defense returns every key starter in 2008. The Terps have a veteran unit that boasts a lot of experience. The strength of the team begins in the backfield, which will be the key to generating the high-paced tempo the Terps are looking for this season.
Anchoring the backfield will be Rowe, a two-time All-American who has combined toughness with skill in her three years as a starter on the Maryland defense. She helped the backfield rank third in the nation in team goals against average. She also has a prowess on offense as a stalwart on the penalty corner unit. Last season, she was tied for second on the team in goals scored, tallying career-highs in every offensive category – goals (14), assists (6) and points (34).
Ott also became a force on defense last season, earning a starting role. She went on to earn her first regional honor, receiving second team Mid-Atlantic All-Region recognition. Davies has started every game on defense since arriving on campus and was an all-region pick as a freshman. Her speed is unrivaled and has begun to understand how to use it to her advantage.
Also bringing physical strength to the backfield is Alicia Morawski, who is a natural ice hockey player. A junior on the playing field, she has three seasons of experience under her belt with the Terps after redshirting her freshman campaign. She will compete for a spot in the rotation as her skills have continued to improve in the offseason.
Entering her second season, Amanda Himmelheber is also a defensive starter returning to the lineup. A lefty, she has solid intercepting skills with her backhand and is also another physically strong player for the Terps.
The biggest change will be in the loss of Kathryn Masson, a three-time All-American goalkeeper who left Maryland ranked in the top five in several career and single-season school records. However, looking to pick up where she left off are Alicia Grater and Melissa Vassalotti, while incoming freshman Brittany Dipper will look to compete for some playing time, as well.
“We were fortunate to have two outstanding goalies over the last couple of years,” said Meharg. “Kat was certainly a terrific talent and was our ‘go-to’ in the cage. But Alicia has proven through practices and the minutes she has earned in games that she is more than capable of taking over the reins.”
While she will be a junior on the playing field, Grater has already been with the squad for three seasons, after redshirting her freshman campaign. She has played behind Masson for three years and became a solid goalkeeper. Now with Masson graduated, Grater will be called upon to take on the leadership position and bring along the younger goalies in Vassalotti and Dipper.
The defensive unit has also shown through the spring competition the utmost respect and confidence with their new general in the cage.
Vassalotti redshirted her freshman year and learned valuable lessons, while also continuing to improve her goaltending skills. Dipper is a “throw back” to the days of two-sport athletes in college. Signing a National Letter of Intent to play for the Maryland lacrosse squad, she will play with the field hockey team in the fall.
Maryland’s non-conference schedule features teams from seven different conferences, while also competing in the nation’s top field hockey conference in the ACC.
After opening the season at Lock Haven on Aug. 31, Maryland plays three teams from the Big Ten in the next five-game stretch. Four of its six games during the first half of September are against teams that were ranked in the top 15 in the final coaches poll of 2007, including national finalist Penn State.
“With the way the schedule is constructed, we will know within the first few weeks of the season where we’re at. These are early markers before we get into the heart of the season and begin the ACC slate.”
In just the second game of the campaign, the Terps travel to play the Nittany Lions for the first time since 1995. Maryland will look to avenge its 2007 NCAA Tournament loss to PSU in the second round, ending the Terps’ streak of four-straight year national semifinal appearances.
The Terps open the home season on Sept. 5 with Old Dominion, a rivalry which continues to grow with every passing season. It is also the opening game of the home-and-home series between the teams, with the second matchup coming on Oct. 16 in Norfolk, Va. The teams met three times last year, with Maryland sweeping all three games, including an NCAA Tournament clash.
After hosting the Lady Monarchs, the Terps travel to Michigan on Sept. 7 to close out the weekend. The last two games between the teams have been decided in overtime. Maryland returns home to host the Terrapin Invitational, featuring the Big East’s Syracuse, the Big 10’s Northwestern, Patriot League champion American and Delaware from the CAA. The Orange burst onto the field hockey scene last year. It is the first meeting between the teams since 2001.
In the two-day event on Sept. 13 and 14, the Terrapins will take on Syracuse on the first day, then the Wildcats on the second day. AU will play NU on the second day, while the Blue Hens take on Syracuse in the closing game of the tournament on day two.
After taking a sneak peak at the Eagles at the Terrapin Invitational, AU visits the Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex a few days later on Sept. 17. Already boasting the best fans in the nation, this matchup has drawn one of the best crowds of the season as the rivalry continues to strengthen.
Following that game, Maryland opens ACC play with four of its league games coming in the next five games. Boston College makes a visit on Sept. 20, followed by a trip to Wake Forest on Sept. 27. The Demon Deacons bounced Maryland out of the ACC Tournament in the semifinals and the Terps are looking for revenge.
After Maryland hosts Richmond on Sept. 28, a short trip to Virginia is on tap on Oct. 4, with the stretch coming to a close on Oct. 11 against Duke at home.
Maryland will then take on the Ivy League’s best in back-to-back games on Oct. 12 and Oct. 14. Penn comes back to College Park for the first time in three years, then the Terps head to league champion Princeton.
The final road contest is at ODU, followed by three-straight home games to end the season. Delaware returns for its matchup with Maryland on Oct. 17. The 2007 National Champion Tar Heels are the last ACC foe on the slate. North Carolina will come for an exciting matchup on Oct. 25.
The final regular-season game is against VCU on Oct. 30. The evening will also feature the annual Senior Night as the Terps will play tribute to the senior class that evening.
The ACC Tournament, always an exciting precursor to the national tournament, will be hosted by Duke on Nov. 6, 7 and 8 in Durham, N.C. Maryland will look to make a better showing this season and vie for its seventh conference crown.
The NCAA Tournament begins Nov. 15 and 16 at campus sites, while the national semifinals and championship games will be hosted by the University of Louisville. Should the Terps make it to the last weekend, it will bring back fond memories of the team’s 2005 title run, when they won the title on that field.