Maryland held their first-ever spring sports media day on Friday. As a journalist, this was one-stop shopping for me. Ordinarily, I would have to schedule individual interviews to meet with different teams and athletes and coaches. But not this year!
Here was some of the best of what went on at media day.
Maryland baseball is in a pretty great place at the moment. The Terps went to their second consecutive NCAA Super Regional last season after beating the top regional seed for the second straight season. Their season ended in heart-breaking fashion to familiar foe, rival and eventual NCAA Champion Virginia. As painful as the end to last season was, Maryland has a legitimate college baseball superstar in pitcher Mike Shawaryn. The junior broke the single-season record for wins and strikeouts last season, and holds the school record for career wins.
Szefc said that Maryland will have a very challenging schedule this season. He said that the schedule has to be challenging for ranking and RPI purposes. He added that every single one of those games will help prepare the team for the NCAA Tournament as they try to break through to the College World Series.
"He is the most consistent player that I've ever coached," Szefc said of Shawaryn.
When asked about the pressure of trying to reach the College World Series after falling just short the past two seasons, Shawaryn responded, "You need to take it day-by-day. The goals down the road will take care of themselves if I do what I need to do."
Maryland softball head coach Julie Wright sat down with my colleague Alex Kirshner before media day.
Her goal is to sell this program. Wright came from Idaho State, where she won three straight Big Sky championships. The program has been in a state of turmoil, and Wright took over as Maryland's third head coach in just three years. Wright said that this team will have a completely new identity this season and added that this team will have to leave a legacy for all of the teams that follow.
"This team will be exciting to watch," she said. "You're going to a team with a lot of energy. You're going to see a team that is disciplined.
"Our schedule is insane, and I like that. Our game plan is to play our style of ball...Every one of those games will prepare us for Big Ten play.
"Our pitching staff will pitch to contact. We are going to be aggressive on the base paths. We are going to force mistakes."
Kristina Dillard, the transfer from Louisville, will start at catcher this season. She will not be calling her own games to start out. The pitching coach will handle that responsibility.
Schmeiser said there is a noticeable difference heading into this season.
"The coaching staff is different," she said. "The practices are energetic, but relaxed."
Schmeiser also noted that there has been a big emphasis on team chemistry this offseason. The team has done a lot of bonding off the field.
Maryland women's lacrosse
Maryland women's lacrosse starts this season in a position that is both familiar, yet different. The Terps are the defending national champions and will start the season atop the preseason rankings. That's the familiar part. After winning the national championship two season ago, the Terps brought back all but two starters from their championship squad. Last season they went wire-to-wire as the top team in the country and won their second straight title in a historic come-from-behind victory against UNC.
Maryland will look to three-peat this season, but the Terrapins only return five starters off of last year's team. Head coach Cathy Reese addressed the media with Taylor Cummings, a two-time Tewaaraton Award winner who might finish her career as the most decorated college women's lacrosse player EVER. There was some emotion towards the end as one of the reporters asked Reese about her relationship with Cummings and how it has grown over the past four seasons. It was a real and touching moment in a setting that is usually trite and banal.
Quotes from Reese:
"We have a lot of work to do...So far, so good. We're gonna have some hiccups, but there's a lot of potential."
"Our goalie play has been outstanding [in the fall and in practice]."
"This season will be one to remember."
And from Cummings:
"This year is a blank slate."
"The goal is to go 1-0 23 times."
"You're going to see a completely different look on offense. We'll be attacking from different spots."
"Cathy brings out the best in us. She wants us to be good players and good people."
Maryland men's lacrosse
Maryland men's lacrosse fell in the national title game last season, but return many of their key pieces. The championship drought now stands at 41 years. Head coach John Tillman has excelled at getting the team to the Final Four and the championship game. Could this be the season that the Terps reach the mountaintop?
"Three Big Ten teams made the Elite Eight last season...The schedule this year will be very challenging."
"Charlie Raffa was the ultimate gamer...It'll be faceoff by committee this year...It's a long season, and you like to have multiple guys for matchup purposes."
"We have a lot of pieces back on offense."
Dunn added that coming off of the MLL Draft, where the Terps had a record number of players drafted, it's an exciting time for Maryland lacrosse.
"The team has put in a lot of time. Even though we've got a lot of guys back, it takes time to gel."
Tillman talked about last year's loss and how important it is to be resilient.
"Sometimes you get knocked down. You have to get back up."
"You can't dwell on it. You can't let your past dictate your future."
Softball starts Friday, and both lacrosse seasons start Saturday. Baseball starts a week later. It's time.
Photos: Sung-Min Kim and Sammi Silber.