The Maryland women's lacrosse team isn't shying away from the challenge of receiving every foe's best effort as the country's top-ranked program.
The Terps went undefeated last year to win the program's 14th national title, as well as their third Big Ten title. They were unanimously picked to win the Big Ten again this season.
Coach Cathy Reese, who has led Maryland to 11 NCAA championships as a player and coach, is used to the high expectations.
"Pressure is what you make of it," Reese said. "The media will talk and people have their opinions on things, but the reality is we need to focus on us, on stepping on the field and just trying to do what we do."
Midfielder Jen Giles, who recorded 41 goals and 32 assists last season, is one of the team's four captains, alongside junior defender Julia Braig and senior attackers Taylor Hensh and Megan Whittle.
Braig, Giles and Whittle were named preseason All-Americans and were a crucial part of Maryland's championship run last season. Braig earned 29 ground balls and forced 27 turnovers, while Whittle led the Terps with 71 goals and 87 points.
Six other players were named preseason All-Americans, but perhaps most critical to Maryland's roster is first-team All-American goalie Megan Taylor. Taylor notched 213 saves on a .535 save percentage last season. The junior was also awarded the IWLCA National Goalie of the Year in 2017 and Big Ten Goaltender of the Year for the past two seasons.
"She's done a phenomenal job for us back there," Reese said, "and in kind of holding that piece of our defense down."
The Terps will also depend on new players to fill gaps left by nine graduated seniors, most notably first-team All-American and Tewaaraton Award winner midfielder Zoe Stukenberg and first-team All-American defender Nadine Hadnagy.
Reese expects freshman Grace Griffin and transfer Meghan Siverson to play key roles in the midfield.
Siverson was an All-American at Louisville, and Griffin was an Under Armour All-American and ranked 16th in her class.
"It's really exciting seeing them finding their strengths," Giles said, "and seeing where they can fit into our team."
Of their 17 regular-season games this season, the Terps are slated to play nine currently ranked teams. The list includes No. 3 North Carolina, No. 4 Penn State and No. 5 Florida.
"We're hopefully just going to take [our No. 1 ranking] and turn it into a motivation and determination to uphold that," Giles said.