Last year, the Maryland men's soccer team tried to stay grounded entering the postseason, calling it a clean slate after an undefeated regular season.
The Terps have attempted to minimize their regular season play this year, too, but for the opposite reason. They finished with four straight losses and a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten.
So Maryland views postseason play — which begins Sunday with a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal against Wisconsin — as a full reset and a chance to raise the trophies they've been focused on since before the year began.
"At this point, that was regular season. We had a goal in regular season to win [the Big Ten title], it didn't happen," midfielder Amar Sejdic said. "Now you file that and you move on to the next chapter."
Last year and for much of this one, Sejdic said, the Terps played with a target on their back.
"Everybody wants to beat the best program in the nation," Sejdic said.
But four teams accomplished that feat in quick succession this past month, knocking the Terps from No. 3 to No. 23 in the rankings and making their path through the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments significantly more difficult.
Still, they'll host their opening game of the Big Ten tournament and are likely to host at least one NCAA tournament game. Sejdic said in some ways he prefers the position the team's in now compared with where it was last season.
"Teams were just kind of wanting and just waiting for us to kind of fall in whatever manner [last year]," Sejdic said. "Now, there are teams that are kind of questioning us as a team and as players."
While expectations from those outside the program have fallen, coach Sasho Cirovski's squad hasn't changed any of the goals it had when it entered the season on the shortlist of national championship contenders.
Plus, after experiencing the regular season glory last year but still being heartbroken in the tournament, this year's focus was always making a tournament run.
"This is a new slate for us, it's a new start," midfielder Eryk Williamson said. "We know it's one game at a time and it's not worrying about getting out of the season undefeated."
As Maryland approached a second consecutive undefeated regular season, Terps players said they lost the joy they played with early in the year.
So in the week between the final regular season game and Sunday's Big Ten tournament opener, the coaching staff has dedicated itself to rediscovering that spirit.
"We had a great meeting yesterday; we wanted to start with a clean slate and kind of get the preseason excitement and joy back to playing," Cirovski said. "It was time to get a full release and now just get a fresh start and the energy flowing."
Toward the end of the year, Cirovski said his team "internalized a lot of pressure." Though frustrating, four straight losses removed some of that stress.
If the Terps want to have the type of finish to the season they've always imagined, they need to prove they can play with doubts, rather than expectations, hanging over them.
"We kind of just have to rise to the occasion and step up and show them that what happened, happened, and we're here to play," Sejdic said. "The national title is still on the line. We're not excluded from that yet. So we've just got to make a statement."