Madison Maguire arrived at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex on Saturday to a locker covered with orange decorations and giraffes. Senior midfielder Brooke Adler's space was decorated to resemble her passion for cooking.
While they both contributed to the Maryland field hockey team's success in 2016 — the team won its third Big Ten regular-season title in as many seasons — Maguire and Adler hadn't developed a relationship with each other.
That changed this summer.
As she's done in each of her 30 years in College Park, coach Missy Meharg paired younger players with a "Top Terp," a veteran player on the team. The pairs decorated each other's lockers before Sunday's season-opening win against Saint Joseph's to develop relationships on a new-look team.
"Top Terps can never fail," Meharg said. "They can always be useful."
The players received their assignments over the summer, when Maguire had a local internship and Adler was living on campus taking classes. Maguire recently joined Maryland's engineering program and was flustered as she considered which classes to take. She approached Adler, who advised Maguire not to enroll in a physics, chemistry and separate math course concurrently.
"It's nice to have someone there to be able to talk to and get a little feedback," Maguire said. "It's all about honesty and trusting each other [and] keeping communication between the two."
Though Maguire and Adler have built a connection, on occasion participating in practice drills and other exercises together as other "Top Terps" do, it took multiple attempts for Meharg and the coaching staff to create the ideal pairs, perhaps indicative of the team's young roster.
Maryland lost last season's top two scorers — Welma Luus and Grace Balsdon — and boasts six freshmen.
But it wasn't the first time Meharg has had to change "Top Terp" pairings.
"People don't have to be good buddies, and that sometimes with women is a challenging thing," Meharg said. "They do feel, and they want to be friends."
Maryland depends on the pairings system to create cohesion during matches, but it's not the only way the players develop relationships. During tailgates, for instance, Maguire's family chats with junior forward Melissa Wilken, a transfer from James Madison who grew up in South Africa, where her family still lives.
Establishing team chemistry takes time. Meharg hopes the team continues to embrace the process to make it to the final four for the first time in four years.
The initial results were sufficient, as the Terps — after dressing in a decorated locker room — earned a late-game win to begin the year.
"When you look at Top Terps, they have to really respect each other and have a really wholesome relationship on and off the field," Meharg said. "I feel really good about our Top Terps."