As it would for any other practice, the Maryland women's lacrosse team filed out of its locker room at the Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex on Wednesday morning. They took the field and began their warm-ups with no noticeable differences in routine.
The Terps have been in this position before. They'll enter the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 overall seed for the fifth consecutive year, having appeared in the championship game in each of the past four seasons.
Their push toward a third title in as many years begins when they host the winner of Towson and High Point on Sunday. For a senior class that has lost just three games over four years, it serves as their chance to win a third national championship after falling to North Carolina in the title game last season.
"Everybody has just been so pumped up these past couple weeks," senior attacker Caroline Wannen said. "Everybody is just in the right mindset and everybody is focused on the same goal. The whole team is just focused on winning."
The seniors have compiled an 85-3 career record, culminating in the No. 1 Terps' 14-6 victory over Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game on Sunday. Coach Cathy Reese labeled them a "special group" and said times has flown by since they arrived four years ago.
Behind the leadership of captains Zoe Stukenberg and Nadine Hadnagy, Reese said the seniors have led the Terps this season. Even senior reserves, such as attacker Bairre Reilly, are big factors in the team's success, Reese said.
With that core of influence and experience, Reese feels the Terps (19-0) are in a good position.
"They're coming off of the loss last season," Reese said. "But yet they know what it's like to win two."
Conversely, the Terps have a group of young players raring for a chance at their first national championship. Redshirt freshman defender Meghan Doherty and rookie midfielder Kali Hartshorn have been consistent starters all season. Attacker Brindi Griffin and midfielder Lizzie Colson have also seen significant time in their rookie campaigns.
Despite their inexperience, the young Terps will have plenty of encouragement from their elders. Wannen said it's important to keep the players loose and prevent them from feeling overwhelmed or nervous.
Attacker Megan Whittle was the leading scorer for the Terps as a freshman when they won the national championship in 2015. She said gestures such as a hug from teammates after a goal can keep the chemistry and morale high for the less-experienced players.
"Overall, it's just remaining confident and knowing that you've been doing it all season," Whittle said. "What's the difference between an NCAA tournament game and the first game of the season?"
As they've preached all season, the Terps are remaining focused on their next opponent, a mentality the seniors have become accustomed to.
"We're just preparing for either Towson or High Point and playing our game on Sunday," Wannen said. "The rest of the bracket doesn't really matter very much if we don't take care of business."