Sunday's game against No. 3 Florida is not just the first ranked matchup of the season for Maryland women's lacrosse — it's also a reunion.
The Terps are set to face former Maryland defender Nadine Hadnagy, who is now an assistant coach for the Gators.
Hadnagy graduated last spring after leading the Terps to their third national title in four years. She was named a Tewaaraton finalist and National Defender of the Year, finishing the season with 30 ground balls and 26 caused turnovers.
While there wasn't a spot for the All-American to fill on Maryland's staff, coach Cathy Reese knew Hadnagy had an interest in coaching and helped her find the opportunity in Gainesville.
"The motto is, 'Once a Terp, always a Terp,'" attacker Megan Whittle said. "It's always exciting to see a friendly face, to see a Terp, regardless of what jersey or coaching attire they're wearing … but it's a business trip. We're there to play the game."
Hadnagy knows the ins and outs of the team after starting almost every game of her college career, which could give Florida an advantage, but the Terps aren't worried.
"As a coach, she definitely can attest to tendencies I guess on attack. But honestly, at the end of the day, it's just lacrosse," Whittle said. "We're going to play Maryland and we're going to do us, and it's hard to stop when we do it right."
Still, the game will be a true test for the Terps as they face a top five team in just their second game of the season. Reese, however, said her squad is used to the challenge.
"The way that we schedule here at Maryland [is] we want to play the best teams in the country and as many of them as possible, so let's go," Reese said.
The team stressed defense ahead of the matchup, citing Florida's athleticism and fast-paced attack.
"They're going to want to go to goal and are going to go hard," goalkeeper Megan Taylor said. "So we just have to hold our ground and play good, solid Maryland defense."
Despite the test ahead, Maryland players and coaches said they're excited to hug their former captain after the game.
And whether or not Hadnagy eventually ends up coaching on Maryland's sidelines one day, Reese is excited for her potential.
"I think she's really enjoying coaching and having the opportunity to go out of college and coach at a top ten program is pretty rare and unique," she said. "For someone as talented as her, I think she's going to totally develop into a great coach throughout her career."