The Maryland softball team spent the first month of the season traveling to tournaments around the country, facing highly ranked opponents and accumulating a 6-13 record that includes three run-rule losses to Top-15 teams.
This weekend, though, Maryland will play its first home games of the season as it hosts a weaker field than any of its first four tournaments, offering the Terps an opportunity to follow their first winning weekend of the season with another successful set of games, despite some injuries and recent offensive struggles.
"We've been trying to get them in a groove," coach Julie Wright said. "[We've been] a lot more reps-focused so they can feel good about what they're doing with their swing."
Last weekend's Louisville Invitational was the first time Maryland played a tournament without facing a ranked team, but offensive leaders Brigette Nordberg and Skylynne Ellazar both had down weekends in Kentucky.
The Terps have struggled offensively all season, scoring only 45 runs against their opponents' 86, but they'll have the chance to ignite their offense this weekend in the Maryland Invitational. None of the teams visiting College Park are more than three games over .500.
The only team with a win over a ranked adversary is Utah, which beat No. 7 Texas A&M last weekend in College Station. Jacksonville is 12-9 but has yet to beat any high-quality opponents. Yale is 0-8, and Miami (Ohio) is 6-7, although the RedHawks did beat Maryland 2-1 when they played Sunday in Louisville.
Even if the bats don't wake up, Maryland's pitchers can give the team a chance to win. Pitchers Sydney Golden and Ryan Denhart had impressive showings in Louisville, combining to allow only nine runs in the five games.
Denhart leads the team in innings and threw the first complete-game shutout of her freshman season last weekend.
"The workload is not an issue," Denhart said, "I'm not scared of having to go out and throw game after game after game."
Denhart credits her success to not overthrowing, trusting her defense and "trying not to make it all about me."
Maryland will make its home debut without outfielder Destiney Henderson, who hasn't played this season due to a lower-body injury but is progressing and may be available to pinch-hit next weekend in Hawaii, Wright said.
Meanwhile, infielder Jacqui Pascual was limited in practice this week, hitting but not running in practice. She is questionable for the weekend.
Even if they're not at 100 percent, the Terps are excited to spend a whole week at home and play in College Park for the first time in 2018.
"There's a million [advantages]," Wright said. "Being familiar with your surroundings, with your fan base and everything like that, we love playing at home."