"I'm confident in these guys. They believe in each other, they believe in themselves and I think this season is going to be one to remember."
Maryland women's lacrosse head coach Cathy Reese said that at media day about her two-time defending national championship team, who returned just five starters, before the season began. John Tillman, the Maryland men's lacrosse head coach, said much of the same but in different words.
This past lacrosse season for both the men's and women's teams was indeed one to remember, even if the ending turned out to be incredibly bittersweet. This past Memorial Day weekend, Maryland men's and women's lacrosse were once again on the precipice of history.
The two teams saw a similar end in 2011, the women's team lost to Northwestern in the title game while the men's team lost to Virginia. Last season, both teams made it to the national title game again. The women's team beat North Carolina and the men's team lost to Denver. This season, the men's and women's teams each lost to UNC in their national championship game.
More than a sport
Reese and Tillman, the accomplished and steadfast leaders of their programs, handled their press conferences with grace and class. Reese talked about the unique chemistry that this year's team had.
"I want a team of good people who care about each other, who recognize that life is more than lacrosse. It's more than a sport," she said.
Reese's team was undefeated all the way up until the title game. Tillman's team hadn't lost since March 5 and set a single-season record for wins.
In defeat, they both talked about the journey and how much they enjoyed coaching their kids. Disappointed? Absolutely, but in the disappointment came truly touching moments.
During his post-game presser, Tillman had to wipe the tears out of his eyes when he talked about his team and, specifically, his seniors. He said he was going to miss them and that the hardest part was not being able to leave them with a smile on their faces. Tears started to stream down his face.
His love and respect for his team, and especially his seniors, was visceral.
At that preseason media day, Reese described an early season road trip her senior year where the team lost two straight games after losing just one during her first three years at Maryland. "It was a lot of tears and emotions and stress and learning and growing as a person," she said.
That's what the members of the Maryland men's and women's lacrosse are going through right now: tears, emotions, stress, learning and growing as people.
Let's take a look ahead for both teams.
A look ahead for Maryland women's lacrosse
As I noted in my season recap, this team returned only five starters for the 2015-2016 season. Now the Terps return all but three starters (Bryn Boucher, Alice Mercer and Taylor Cummings).
The Terrapins have three returning All-Americans in midfielder Zoe Stukenberg, defender Nadine Hadnagy and attacker Megan Whittle. Mercer and Cummings are huge losses, but Maryland will probably start the year as the No. 2 team in the country.
Maryland had the nation's top scoring offense and a top-five scoring defense last season. The Terps are always incredibly balanced, and they have almost everyone coming back. This team will compete for a national title next season.
A look ahead for Maryland men's lacrosse
Losing Kyle Bernlohr, Bryan Cole, Matt Dunn, Greg Danseglio, Henry West and Pat Young is a big blow for this team.
Maryland has had a string of great goalies recently and Kevin Conry, the Terps' defensive coordinator, is simply one of the best in the game today. The Terps are traditionally one of the strongest defensive units in the country, and they should be next year as well.
Austin Henningsen and Will Bonaparte are both back at faceoff X, and All-Americans Matt Rambo and Colin Heacock are back to lead the offense. Rambo will start to climb into the top five on the Maryland all-time points and goals lists in his senior season. Maryland still has balance with Connor Kelly, Dylan Maltz and others.
First team All-American Isaiah Davis-Allen returns along with third team All-American Tim Muller as well.
Maryland will have four returning All-Americans along with a balanced offense, great wings, and a stout defense in 2016-2017. This team has all the ingredients for a return to the Final Four next season.
Maryland men's and women's lacrosse will return to the Final Four and their respective national championship games in the very near future. They have incredibly talented coaching staffs and even more talented rosters. Tillman explained why the best lacrosse players in the country, men's and women's, will keep lining up to try and play for the Terps.
"You don't come to Maryland to play in the championship. You come to Maryland to win the championship."
Maryland will win a national title in both men's and women's lacrosse. It's not a matter of if. It's just a matter of when.