After losing to North Carolina in the 2018 national championship, Maryland field hockey coach Missy Meharg made one thing abundantly clear: how proud she was of her team.
Going into the 2018 season, the Terps had lofty goals and expectations for themselves.
The young Maryland team had found its way to the 2017 title game, but lost to UConn. An offseason meeting between team captains set aspirations of a return to the championship game in motion, with redemption on their minds.
Maryland defeated Princeton, 1-0, in overtime in this year’s NCAA Final Four, but against an undefeated Tar Heels team, the Terps fell short once again.
“We’re proud. It’s an honor to be here,” Meharg said after the loss. “North Carolina is a tremendous team, very well-coached, very disciplined. Just a disappointing time for Maryland.”
While the second consecutive national title game defeat proved to be a heart-wrenching end to the year — particularly for Maryland’s captains, who vowed to return triumphantly — the Terps completed one of their best seasons in recent memory.
Maryland started off strong, winning 13 straight games — its best start to a campaign since 2013. In that stretch, the Terps beat nine ranked opponents, including then-No. 3 Duke, then-No. 5 Princeton in a double overtime comeback and then-No. 2 UConn.
The Terps picked up their first loss against then-No. 7 Penn State on Oct. 7, a game in which Maryland had 13 shots, eight of which were on target. The Terps coasted to a 4-0 win against Indiana the following game, but the offense faltered at points.
The Terps managed a win over No. 8 Iowa the next game, but only tallied five shots. Then, in its last regular season Big Ten matchup, Maryland was tied with No. 17 Northwestern for the majority of the game before forward Bibi Donraadt scored the game-winner with less than three minutes left in regulation.
The win over the Wildcats secured Maryland a share of the Big Ten regular season title, sharing the trophy with Michigan. But in the final game of the regular season against then-No. 23 Virginia, who had a 7-8 record at the time, the Terps’ offense sputtered. They lost the winnable matchup 3-1.
Determined to reach the Final Four in Louisville, though, Maryland bounced back in the Big Ten tournament. It cruised through the first two rounds of the competition, toppling Michigan State 6-0 in the quarterfinals and Ohio State behind a season-high nine goals in the semifinals. The Terps had another defensive skirmish in the championship game against Iowa, but eased to a 2-1 win to earn the Big Ten Championship.
“This was something they planned on and they took it to heart and I’m actually not surprised to be honest,” Meharg said after her team won the conference tournament. “We’ve been working hard since January and we’ve been talking about being in the position to win championships, and quite frankly this team — they want to win.”
Maryland entered NCAA Tournament play as the No. 2 overall seed, and though it would make it back to the title game, it was outplayed by North Carolina after a lackluster first half, in which the Terps couldn’t muster a single shot. So, against a strong Tar Heels defense, the Terps couldn’t make up ground in the second half and lost the biggest prize the same stage as last year.
“It’s pretty upsetting,” midfielder Madison Maguire said after the defeat. “But I think that our performance in the second half really showed our heart and how we wanted to play for the seniors. … It obviously didn’t come out in our favor, but we’ll get ‘em next year.”