Maryland women's lacrosse players couldn't help but laugh as their coaches brought out new equipment for practice this week.
The team practiced with "beat sticks," padded poles used to hit players, simulating physical contact. Instead of normal shooting drills, attackers had to navigate through different defensive setups while being hit with the sticks.
The unique practice was in preparation for the team's upcoming road game against Syracuse, a team known for its tough style of play.
"It's just really to emulate how physical they are with hitting, with cross checking, checking in general," attacker Taylor Hensh said. "They're always going to have a body on us, and we're just going to have to deal with that and be able to keep the balls in our stick and be able to shoot under pressure."
In previous matchups between the Terps and the Orange, the aggressiveness has shown up in the stat sheet. Syracuse has fouled the Terps 57, 44 and 34 times in the teams' last three meetings, all Maryland wins.
Goalkeeper Megan Taylor said she is also expecting aggressiveness from Syracuse's offense.
"They're definitely a physical team all over the field. I'm looking towards really fast, hard shots," Taylor said. "So just anything that's going to happen might happen that game."
The Orange's reputation is enhanced this year, as they're one of a few teams wearing helmets instead of traditional goggles. The NCAA made the use of helmets optional last year in an effort to reduce concussions, but some coaches have expressed concerns that it allows for rougher play or players to lead with their heads.
Still, after a week of practicing how to play through contact, coach Cathy Reese is confident her team can handle the Orange for the 11th straight time in the past six years.
"Syracuse is a really talented team, it's always a good battle between Maryland and Syracuse," Reese said. "They've always been a very physical team, but I think our team's been tested too. … Our girls are ready to handle it."