With postseason play beginning on Friday, No. 2 Maryland field hockey didn’t have any scheduled games for this past weekend. But the Terps didn’t want to have a weekend off, so they played against some familiar faces.
The Terps welcomed back a ton of Maryland field hockey alumnae this weekend, including members of the 1999 National Championship squad. The 1999 team was celebrating the 20th anniversary of championship, which was head coach Missy Meharg’s second of seven titles at the University of Maryland.
That year, the team went 24-1, including a 2-1 victory over Michigan in the NCAA Championship game.
On Sunday afternoon in the Terps’ locker room, the alumnae wrote a message on a board that expressed the importance of playing as a unit to complete the same goal that their team once achieved.
“[The alumnae] talked about heart and effort and love they put into each other and in the game,” senior defender Kelee Lepage said. “And I think that’s going to be huge going into postseason. Just playing with heart, if nothing else, that’s what we can bring.”
The 1999 team is comparable to the 2019 Maryland field hockey team in many ways.
The 1999 NCAA championship team featured a high-powered offense, averaging 4.91 goals per game, while shutting down it’s opponents, allowing just 1.04 goals per game. While the 2019 team doesn’t have the same offensive power, the team still showcases a versatile offensive attack combined with a lockdown defense. On the year, the Terps are scoring 3.28 goals per game, while allowing 0.89 per contest.
“We fought hard for each other,” Autumn Welsh Kelly, a member of the 1999 team said. “We were all very passionate about our love for the sport, our love for Maryland, our love for just each other as teammates. And I think what made us phenomenal is that we worked hard at practice, and we pushed each other and that just took us to a level that we didn’t even realize we we’re going to.”
Members of the championship team took the pitch to face the current Maryland field hockey team on Sunday afternoon. In addition to the 1999 team, there were also other graduates from the field hockey program, including members of the coaching staff: Katie Bam, Kasey Tapman and Sarah Holliday.
“We couldn’t have found a better team and a better simulation than the Maryland [alumnae],” Meharg said. “They’re incredible, so it was great.”
The alumnae took the matchup pretty serious, according to Meharg.
“They were out here 40 minutes prior,” Meharg said of returning group. “They had a serious warm up. I was actually just so pleased that they took it to heart.”
Despite it being an exhibition game, there was plenty of coaching adjustments coming from the current Maryland field hockey sideline. The Terps beat the alumnae 6-1, but Meharg was impressed with the play of her past players, which allowed for her team to learn some new things.
The game was competitive and even included some friendly banter from the former Terps. The 2019 Terps prevailed in the end with two goals each coming from seniors Kelee Lepage and Madison Maguire. The alumnae scored their lone goal of the game on an empty cage in the final quarter. But the final score was not what was important for the program.
“I think Maryland, our team, played very very well,” Meharg said. “We had combinations to goal that we haven’t seen yet, and it couldn’t come at a better time.”
After the game, Meharg gathered both the current and former Terps to thank everyone for coming out, adding that it was the most competitive alumnae game that she’s been apart of.
For the alumnae, it was just a special time to be back with their teammates at the University of Maryland on Homecoming weekend. It was also a great experience as they got to challenge the current team in hopes of preparing them for the upcoming postseason.
“It’s a really special time coming up, the Big Ten tournament,” Lein Holsboer, former Terps midfielder from 2014-17, said. “We’re so happy to help them prepare for it and it’s such an honor to just play with them and get them ready hopefully to get that title.”
The 1999 team was also in attendance for the football game against Michigan, with the championship squad even bringing its championship trophy along with it. After the exhibition, Welsh Kelly reflected on the opportunity to be back.
“It’s been incredibly meaningful, not just to be here, but to be here surrounded by my teammates,” Welsh Kelly said. “There’s so many of us that came back. We had an awesome run in ‘99 and I think the coolest part of our team is that we’ve stayed close since then. It’s just an amazing feeling. It feels like you’re just riding a bike, you know like we’ve been here all along and it’s pretty awesome.”
The current Terps team is hoping to replicate not only the success of the 1999 squad, but the chemistry it has to this day.
“You can’t guarantee championships, but you can guarantee a brand of living,” Meharg said. “I think that’s what I’m most proud of.”