COLLEGE PARK - Maryland coach Missy Meharg walked into her first field hockey practice of the season yesterday and immediately laid out a plan she believes will carry the Terrapins to a second straight NCAA championship.
"We're going to set a whole new standard this fall for field hockey success at the University," said Meharg. "We're going to raise the bar so high that other teams won't be able to beat us by playing a silly style. We know teams are going to come out against us and hit the ball out of bounds, force fouls, knock the ball way down the field, which is similar to icing the puck, and just play a choppy game to disrupt us."
Meharg said Maryland plans to fast break the length of the field the entire game, running players in and out of the game thanks to a five-deep bench. That is a luxury the team didn't have last season when it went 24-1 and defeated Michigan, 2-1, to win the national championship.
So is Meharg saying the Terps are even better than they were in 1999? Certainly.
Maryland returns all 11 starters from last year, including four All-Americans - Carla Tagliente, Rachel Hiskins, Keli Smith and Caroline Walter - along with Ashley Hohnstine, who was the nation's top-ranked goalkeeper last season with an 0.66 goals-against average.
Terps men: forget 1999
"We just fell apart at the most unusual time," said junior defender Nick Downing yesterday as he explained what happened to the Maryland men's soccer team last Nov. 21 when it was stunned by St. John's, 1-0, in the first round of the NCAA tournament. "We were a strong team last season when we were connected, but when things went wrong, we played poorly."
Downing, a pre-season finalist for college soccer's top award, the Hermann Trophy, and his 16th-ranked teammates admitted yesterday that it was a long fall last season after a trip to the Final Four in 1998.
"We lost a lot on offense but our defense should be strong," said Downing in regard to the defection to the pros of All-America forward Taylor Twellman and the graduation of forward Jason Cropley. All-America defender Dan Califf also opted to leave Maryland early for a pro career.
However, Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said, "We will be a connected team this season."
Biscoe boosts Terps women
The Maryland women's soccer team is setting its sights on knocking perennial Atlantic Coast Conference and national power North Carolina off its pedestal.
One of the reasons for all the high hopes is a freshman midfielder named Jen Biscoe from John Carroll High. Biscoe was The Sun Player of the Year last fall and she drew high praise from Maryland coach Shannon Higgins-Cirovski yesterday on Media Day.
"Jen gives us something we haven't had," said Higgins-Cirovski. "She can do everything."
Two other area standouts, junior forwards Sara Gustafson (Franklin) and Courtney Beirne (Westminster), are expected to play major roles in Maryland's bid to challenge Carolina.
Senior fullback Matt Kalapinski missed a second straight day of workouts yesterday as the primary blocker for LaMont Jordan continued to complain of headaches.