COLLEGE PARK, Md. — In each of the past four years, Maryland relied on All-American Alyssa Thomas to keep the team in the upper tier of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Things are going to be a lot different this season.
The Terrapins will be without Thomas and competing for the first time as a member of the Big Ten. The goal, however, is the unchanged: Win the national championship.
Maryland reached the Final Four last season, and losing Thomas means the Terrapins — ranked 10th in the AP preseason poll — will have to find another way to win.
“I think our team is extremely motivated, really humble, really hungry in the sense they aren’t satisfied in terms of where their season ended,” coach Brenda Frese said. “They want to be able to take it further.”
Thomas was a three-time ACC Player of the Year and the leading scorer in school history. No one person can duplicate what she did for the Terrapins, so it’s going to take a group effort to make up the difference.
“You can’t replace her. She’s a dynamic player, one of the best to come through this program,” junior guard Brene Moseley said. “It’s definitely a big loss, so the team has to come together.”
The Terrapins hope their quickness and athleticism will enable them to offset the physical nature of the Big Ten.
“Hopefully they’ll change for us, and we won’t have to change from them,” Moseley said.
Some things to know about the 2014-15 Maryland women’s basketball team:
WELCOME ABOARD: The Terrapins were picked to win the Big Ten by coaches and media that cover the team. Bring it on, says Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff. “It’s great to add Maryland, who just came off a Final Four appearance,” McGuff said. “I really do think it helps our league in terms of our national stature.”
NEW LOOK: Three of the top six scorers from last year’s team are gone, including Alicia DeVaughn and guard Katie Rutan. The only senior on the squad is guard Lauren Mincy. Sophomores Lexie Brown, Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, along with four freshmen, means this team will need some time to mature. “What you see in November is going to be completely different from what you see in March,” Moseley said. “We’re definitely going to be better.”
BIG DEAL: Before coming to Maryland, Frese coached Minnesota in 2002 and took the Gophers to the second round of the NCAA tournament. “My Big Ten experience, having grown up in Iowa as well as coaching one season and having followed the league for so many years, prepares for what we’re going to see,” Frese said. So does Maryland’s continual success. “How we’ve been able to establish ourselves as a consistent top 10 program, and in the Final Four, prepared us for the Big Ten,” Frese said.
NO LIMITS: The Terrapins appear to have the talent to be exceptional on defense.”By far, in my 12 years here at Maryland, I feel like this is one of the most athletic teams that we’ve ever had,” Frese said. “You’re going to really see us defensively doing even more in terms of utilizing our athleticism, full court press, the ability to trap in the half court, to really throw a lot of wrinkles on the defensive end.” Said Mincy: “We’re going to rebound together, we’re going to score together, we’re going to defend as one.”
TARGET PRACTICE: Maryland’s reputation, lofty ranking and status as the Big Ten favorite means getting everyone’s best shot. “We have talked about the target on our back, coming off a Final Four,” Frese said. “And I do think our players understand the expectation and the standard when they come to Maryland. It’s something that we really welcome.”