Before the Maryland field hockey team's season opener against Saint Joseph's, freshman midfielder Brooke DeBerdine knotted her shoelaces three times, something she's done before every game since she was in middle school.
"It's just a superstitious thing," DeBerdine said.
DeBerdine's pregame routine reflects her attention to detail. She's started every game this season and anchored a back line that has held opponents to under two goals per contest.
During Maryland's film sessions, DeBerdine shouts observations whenever she recognizes a personal miscue.
To fifth-year senior defender Marissa Cutry, it's a sign of honesty that is also evident during games. For DeBerdine, it's a personal expectation.
"You're just like, 'OK, she knows what she's doing and she already knows what she needs to fix,'" Cutry said. "Coming in, a lot of girls are nervous so they're not used to being corrected how we correct each other. Taking that initiative to self-fix is huge."
Though Maryland dropped consecutive matches to Duke and Boston College in the Big Ten/ACC Cup last weekend, coach Missy Meharg praised DeBerdine's keenness. The Terps have allowed five goals in three games, but Meharg said DeBerdine's speed has become invaluable.
As Meharg experiments with different lineups, DeBerdine has been one of seven constant figures in the starting rotation.
"Her foot speed is so fast," Meharg said. "Her hand speed is so fast. … Her work rate is contagious."
DeBerdine, who Max Field Hockey deemed the second-best freshman in the nation this summer, said she plans to use a more aggressive approach to help Maryland snap its two-game skid Friday, when the Terps face Towson in the first game of the Terrapin Invitational.
Maryland, which has scored just three times this season and once since its first match, could benefit from DeBerdine's outlook, as well as her on-field focus.
"Having a freshman come on the field and act like they've been playing here for four years is something that we needed," Cutry said, "and something that's grown our team."