Maryland field hockey midfielder Madison Maguire stood in a pool with her teammates, all wearing sweatshirts days into the start of the preseason. Maguire and the rest of the team were tasked with keeping the teammate next to her above the water, an exercise to give the young team experience in unsettling situations.
Before the season started, coach Missy Meharg and the No. 6 Terps spent two days working with a group of team builders. At the end of the exercises, the team regrouped and picked three attributes it aims to be defined by throughout the season: discipline, selflessness and Maryland pride.
Days after a season-opening win against Saint Joesph's and ahead of its Friday match against No. 2 Duke in the Big Ten/ACC Cup in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Maryland is again turning to those principles to kick-start its offense.
"Every year's team develops their own culture," Meharg said. "[The team builders] really helped us define what it felt like to be uncomfortable."
After the preseason activities, the Terps brainstormed a series of words they felt could describe a team attempting to reach the final four after failing to do so in the last three seasons. Since Meharg was named the head coach 30 years ago, Maryland hasn't gone four consecutive seasons without a final four appearance.
Trust, honesty, pride and selflessness were among the words considered, and the inability to come to an immediate consensus might reflect the 2017 squad's attitude. But then, the group narrowed the list.
"If you're selfless, I'm going to trust you," Maguire said. "If you're honest with me, I know you're going to have pride and discipline and be selfless. When we got it down to those three words, it really helped us grow as a team."
Maguire said the preseason strategies, particularly feeling uncomfortable, proved valuable against Saint Joseph's. The Terps were held scoreless in the first half despite boasting a shooting advantage but were more aggressive after intermission.
Meharg's team's discipline was evident as it held the Hawks off the board for more than 40 minutes, and its desire for selflessness was clear when Brooke Adler connected with transfer Sabrina Rhodes for the go-ahead score.
The pride aspect could be tested this weekend, when the Terps face the Blue Devils and No. 12 Boston College in the tournament that handed them one of their five losses last season. The Blue Devils, who Meharg said "are very senior-laden," didn't allow a score in their Friday win against William & Mary.
"Duke's very out there with the media," Meharg said. "They're here to win a national championship this year. Fortunately for us, we have enough players that don't know what they don't know."
As Meharg rotates underclassmen into their positions, there is a chance struggles will ensue while the team learns each player's style. Nonetheless, the team plans to recall the preseason pool activity and emphasize discipline, selflessness and Maryland pride.
"We went through a lot of uncomfortable situations," Maguire said. "It really improved our trust with each other."