Bodil Keus couldn't participate with her peers on the Maryland field hockey team as they carried each other on their backs during a preseason team-building exercise. Keus, who was sidelined with an injured left quad, had been itching to be integrated into the program since arriving in College Park on Aug. 6.

As a result, Keus missed Maryland's first few preseason practices. She wasn't called on during the Terps' preseason exhibitions, and her ability to learn teammates' tendencies was delayed. The Amsterdam native spent her off-field time learning English.

But Keus, whom the Terps call their "field general" because of her knowledge and passing skills, appeared in Maryland's season opener against Saint Joseph's. She's started every game since, anchoring the defense. The rest of the Big Ten has taken notice.

Ahead of the No. 7 Terps' Big Ten tournament semifinal matchup with No. 5 Penn State on Friday, Keus was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

"I don't really notice her until it's urgent," coach Missy Meharg said. "She's not going to overwork for you. She's going to be efficient and get the job done."

The veteran coach doesn't recall if Keus directly reached out to her, or if she used a service to push for an opportunity at an American university. Nonetheless, Meharg has developed relationships with coaches in the Netherlands — one reason the Terps landed midfielder Lein Holsboer — and sought their feedback.

Meharg admired Keus' advanced skillset and arranged an official visit. Keus also considered Syracuse and Louisville. She toured College Park with her mom last Easter, spending time with Meharg and forward Linnea Gonzales. She was impressed with Maryland's criminology program, and chose to play for the Terps.

Keus contributed immediately, scoring her first goal against Saint Joseph's. Since then, she's scored eight times, recording the second-most goals on the team. She's started all but one contest — the season's first — and has been Maryland's go-to threat on penalty corners.

But Keus hasn't become complacent. After disappointing practice performances, Keus apologizes to the coaching staff.

The Terps' roster features six seniors, and as a result, Meharg's squad figures to be young again next fall. As a result, Keus has challenged herself to take on a leadership role.

"In the beginning, I was kind of shy," Keus said. "I'm trying to help on the field with tactical technique. If I can help, I will be there for [my teammates] and be a leader."

Initially, Keus watched as the Terps practiced, unfamiliar with her new team. Now, she's emerged as an integral part of Maryland's defense.

"We're seeing her get more comfortable throughout games," Gonzales said. "When we're passing and having a connection, you can really see it come out. She wants to do everything for this team. She's growing each day."