Marissa Cutry knew she didn’t want to study anything ordinary in college.
She had taken some art and design classes in high school, and she wanted to combine her interests in those areas by studying architecture.
But Cutry was also recruited to play field hockey in college, and it was tough to find schools that would let her pursue both passions. She wanted to follow the same path as her older sister, Christy, who played field hockey and studied architecture at the University of Massachusetts from 2008-2011.
“When I was getting recruited, a lot of the coaches either said yes or no,” Cutry said. “And the ones that did, I left to be my final three schools. But even then, the coaches were skeptical of giving me the privilege to study architecture.”
After narrowing her options down to Virginia, Penn State and Maryland, she decided to come to College Park due to head coach Missy Meharg’s flexibility in allowing her players to challenge themselves on and off the field. For Meharg, that’s just one of the goals of the program.
“It’s what we’re here to do,” Meharg said. “It’s about finding the athletes that don’t mind at all being a little comfortable being uncomfortable, and that’s Marissa. She just does all the work.”
Being an architecture major does not carry the same reputation as studying engineering or being on the pre-med track, but it still presents a unique challenge for a student-athlete. Cutry is pursuing a bachelor of science degree in architecture, and students on that track must take four studio classes to fulfill the degree requirements. The studio classes run Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and each class lasts four hours.
Cutry took studio classes the past two years, and the result was a hectic schedule. She would get up around 8 a.m. and try to catch up on studio work and other homework for four or five hours, then go to practice and weightlifting for three hours. After practice, she would go to studio for four hours and stay in the architecture building after the class ended until midnight.
Cutry’s schedule caused her to miss practice, as her studio class was from 2-6 p.m. and overlapped with the final two hours of practice. She missed the team’s weightlifting sessions as well, so she would have to make them up before practice. This was challenging at first, but Cutry said she got used to it as time went on.
“Once you get down with your first studio, you kind of figure out when to sleep, when to practice, and when to eat, so you figure out how to balance everything,” she said.
Besides trying to balance her time and succeed, Cutry had some extra motivation to get through the last two years. When she came to Maryland as a defender in 2013, the Terps had a veteran defensive line and there was little chance she would get serious playing time right away.
She decided to redshirt during her first year on campus, and has taken challenging classes the past two years to set herself up for an easier final semester. Cutry’s only taking nine credits to finish up her degree, and since her schedule doesn’t get in the way, this is the first time she’s been able to attend every practice.
The extra semester has come with an added bonus, as Cutry was named team captain this season. It may seem like an odd choice, since she’s never been a full-time starter, but Meharg selected her because of how she leads by example on and off the field.
“People follow her because of the way she holds herself,” Meharg said. “It’s not being told what to do by Marissa, it’s doing as she does.”
According to sophomore defender Emily Thomas, Cutry acted like a captain off the field last year by advising her teammates on how to handle academics, and this year that leadership has translated onto the field.
“She’s made sure that everyone has responsibility for everything,” Thomas said. “It’s not just the younger players doing the grunt work.”
Being awarded captain is a nice way for Cutry to end her field hockey career, but she still has plenty of work ahead to reach her goal of becoming a full-time architect.
Since Maryland’s undergraduate architecture program is not accredited, Cutry will have to spend the month following the end of the season filling out graduate school applications, the next step in the process of becoming licensed. She’ll attend graduate school for the next two to three years, then take the Architect Registration Examination. If she passes that, she will officially be a licensed architect.
It’s been a long road for Cutry, but she doesn’t regret it. In fact, she encourages athletes trying to go into rigorous majors to follow that path.
“I would just say do it and things will work out,” Cutry said. “We have some great staff in our athletic department and there are always ways to make things work as long as you have the drive and passion for your major.”