Sunday after the final buzzer sounded, the excitement and love the Terps felt for each other was palpable for the nearly 9,500 in attendance. For some teams, consistent winning brings arrogance, however for Maryland, it brings the opposite. It brings a renewed appreciation and love for teammates, and recognition of how difficult the journey is to become National Champions.
“The past few weeks we have heard all these statistics, you’ve been to this many final fours,” senior attacker Caroline Steele said. “It never feels like that, we’ve all taken a step back as a group, we never take it for granted.”
Throughout this season the Terps have represented three ideals: humility, family and class. All three were evident once again in Sunday’s National Championship. This mentality and culture stems from head coach Cathy Reese, who embodies these three ideals and preaches them all-year long.
Throughout this season, the Terps consistently gave credit to their teammates, taking the limelight away from themselves.
Whether it was senior goalie Megan Taylor deflecting praise to her defense or senior midfielder Jen Giles heaping praise on other offensive teammates, humility was demonstrated from Game 1 to Game 23. Giles and Taylor, both Tewaaraton Award Finalists, certainly deserve praise and could take credit, but instead choose to delegate credit to their teammates. During the postgame press conference a reporter even phrased a question about Taylor’s performance around the defense knowing she would not give herself credit.
Taylor quickly responded, “Yeah, you’re right about that.”
Not only do the Terps give credit to their teammates on the field, but to coaches and members of the training staff off of it. After playing until nearly midnight on Friday, the Terps had only one day of rest to play against Boston College in the 95-degree heat.
“I have to credit to our staff, for helping us,” Giles said. “The treatment and everything that went into [Saturday], being able to come out feeling good playing is incredible at Maryland.”
Throughout championship weekend at Homewood Field in Baltimore, the Maryland fan section was in full force. However, no one was louder than the alumnae contingent, many of whom played for Reese. The alumnae waved their Maryland flags with pride and were just as excited in the celebration off the field as the celebration on it.
Many of them also played for Reese and represent the family culture that she has entrenched in the program. Seeing so many of them return to support the Terps represents the familial culture that Reese has helped create during her time in College Park.
“Alumni, it doesn’t get better than them, what a group,” Reese said. “Me speaking as an alum, I’m proud to be a part of that group.”
Throughout this season, a word that has echoed throughout the Maryland locker room is family. Family was once again on display Sunday, particularly from the senior class who had just completed its last game in College Park. Giles, Taylor and Steele, three of the Terps senior leaders, each reflected on playing with their teammates these past four years.
“The whole entire season, we’ve been a family, these are my best friends that I get to hang out with every single day,” Steele said.
“This season in particular has just been such an amazing time, we’re such a family,” Giles said. “We started from day one working for each other and playing for each other.”
Speaking about how their time in College Park was coming to an end, all three seniors could not help but get a little choked up. All three were integral to the Terps success and will understandably miss playing with one another and the culture of family and friendship.
“These past four years playing with [Megan] and the people beside me, have been the best years and nothing can take that away,” Steele said. “The best four years of my entire life and nothing is going to beat that.”
In her time in College Park, Reese has won five national titles and reached 11 final fours. Still, she approaches each the season the same way, helping her players develop both on the field and off of it.
Given the repeated success, it’s very easy for opposing teams and fans to dislike Reese and the Terps. However, it’s very difficult to do anything but respect the success given that Reese and everyone on her roster exemplifies class and the two ideals discussed above.
Representing class personified, throughout the press conference Giles, Taylor and Steele repeatedly stated what an outstanding team Boston College is. Maryland could have basked in the glory of another championship. Instead, they decided to acknowledge what a challenge it was to defeat the Eagles on the road to becoming National Champions once again.
Speaking after the game, holding back tears, Reese talked about what her goal was for those who come through the program.
“I want everyone that comes through and plays for me, to graduate and to go on and say they were the best four years of their life,” Reese said.
It’s safe to say that Maryland’s 10 seniors feel this way. Those returning next season will continue to exemplify humility, family and class, three cornerstone principles that define the culture Reese has established at Maryland.
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