When coach Missy Meharg was asked about Maryland field hockey’s upcoming NCAA tournament slate, the first thing she said was how excited she was to be opening at home.
Last season, following a 12-5 regular season and a semifinals loss in the Big Ten tournament, the Terps started the NCAA tournament on the road.
This year, Meharg’s team enters as the No. 2 overall seed after finishing the regular season 16-2 and winning both the conference regular-season and tournament titles. That allows Maryland to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, giving the squad a feeling of comfort.
"It kind of brings a fun atmosphere for us, it's familiar,” defender Logan Edmondson said. “We get a lot of fans, a lot of young kids, a lot of people to play for and a lot of people to cheer for us. And that energy that they bring, I think brings it out on the field for us."
The atmosphere is especially familiar for Meharg, who has coached at Maryland for 31 years. She looks forward to coming to the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex every day.
Meharg often finds a sense of calm in the trees on the premises, especially watching their leaves change color in the fall.
When the field was first built, there were seven weeping willow trees. Now, just one remains and Meharg says her goal is to outlast it. Her objective for the team is to still be playing and competing for a championship by the time the tree loses all its leaves.
The first step toward doing so comes Friday, when No. 2 Maryland faces No.18 Albany in the first round of the tournament. If the Terps come out victorious, they’ll play either No. 10 Rutgers or No. 4 UConn.
Albany has topped the Terps in their last two meetings — a 2-1 loss that ended Maryland’s 2014 tournament run, and another 2-1 defeat in September 2015. The Terps have defeated both Rutgers and UConn this season, though.
If Maryland faces the Huskies in the next round, it would be a rematch of the 2017 national championship, a matchup the Terps lost, 2-1. That defeat has been in the back of players’ minds all season, fueling their 4-2 win earlier this year and making them want a title of their own even more.
"You're talking about people that understand outcome and understand knockout, so with that in mind we need to come to play and we need to start the match so dominant,” Meharg said. “It's not about matching what Albany brings, or Connecticut or Rutgers, it's about matching what we've done and make it better.”
Meharg wants her squad to work on attention to detail, communication and spreading contagious energy as they enter the most important part of the season.
The Terps are hoping that having the home turf will give them an extra edge. Players are excited to have family, friends and fans in the stands supporting them.
And for Maryland seniors, this weekend holds extra meaning. It will be the last time they play at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex, as the final four will be held at the University of Louisville.
“There’s a lot of memories with it,” senior Linnea Gonzales said. “We’re going to go out with a bang just because there’s a lot of passion there."