Archbishop Spalding High School is just 30 minutes up the road from College Park, but a couple of Cavaliers had longer journeys to come together to spark the University of Maryland field hockey team.
Margot Lawn and Kyler Greenwalt have been key members of the 12-5, fourth-ranked Terrapins, who wrap up the regular season Oct. 29 at home against No. 24 Ohio State. The Terps are 3-4 in the powerful — six teams nationally ranked (including No. 1 Iowa, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Rutgers, No. 6 Northwestern, Maryland) — Big Ten, and should land in the 18-team NCAA Tournament.
All five of Maryland’s losses are to top-10 teams, including four in conference play, and on Oct. 24, the Terps toppled Michigan, a significant late-season victory that catapulted them from No. 8 to No. 4 in the latest national coaches’ poll. Maryland has won three in a row and five of the last six.
“I think we have a really good chance if we stay disciplined, continue to hold each other accountable, and lift each other up,” said Lawn, who transferred back to her home state last year from Louisville. “We have a great team. We’re really fast and disciplined when we want to be. When we play like that it’s really hard to beat us.”
And it’s getting harder. Maryland’s recent run comes after back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Iowa, and also includes victories against No. 12 Virginia and then No. 17 Connecticut Oct. 17 in what was career win No. 600 for Maryland coach Missy Meharg.
Meharg, who has seven national championships to her credit, knows a thing or two about high level field hockey.
“Right now, we’re playing the best hockey we’ve played since 2019 [when the Terps were 17-4, Big Ten champs and NCAA quarterfinalists],” 34-year coaching veteran Meharg said. “We were playing some good hockey in the middle of that season and then fell shy a bit in the third quarter of the season. We’re heading into the final quarter and we’re playing our best right now. We haven’t had the depth we have this year in terms of rotations. We’re able to get our top runners good minutes each quarter and get some recovery and back in and finish each quarter very strong.”
Meharg says the Terps go 16 players deep for the 10 field positions (plus a goalkeeper) and that Maryland has the best midfield in the country. That’s where fifth-year Greenwalt patrols, back for a “super senior season” after an injury-plagued career. In 17 games so far, she has tallied three goals and three assists and passed on immeasurable knowledge and help to her teammates.
“My role, and I think it’s what I’ve done throughout my years here, is to be an example for my teammates,” said the Gambrills, Md., native. “Just showing up every single day, giving whatever I’ve got every minute of every practice, just trying to be consistent and showing I care about every single person. I want the best for everybody but at the same time I’m going to hold you accountable on and off the field. I help steer everyone and the team in the right direction.”
That’s what a team captain sounds like and a main reason Meharg feels good about her squad coming down the stretch.
“Kyler has come a long way and she’s very committed to what she’s doing,” said the coach.
Greenwalt suffered a major ACL injury as a sophomore in 2018 and missed some time as a junior, too. She started all 15 games this past spring but reinjured the knee and now paces herself a bit more.
“I try to stay positive and see the best of every situation,” Greenwalt said. “When I was first injured it was really hard for me because no one warns you that you can come out of surgery not feeling great. I didn’t know that was a possibility. Every day I do what’s right for my body and my mind. I can’t control a lot of things, but I can control my attitude. This season is important, but I realize that sometimes I’m going to have to take more breaks than other people but that is OK.”
The time coping with her injury has brought things into focus for the thoughtful Greenwalt, a lifelong Terp. She was a ball girl for the team all the way back to the third grade. A communications major, she hopes to enter coaching when her playing career ends this winter.
Lawn, a native of Pasadena, Md., had a healthier but perhaps similarly arduous path to her success at Maryland. Coming out of Spalding as one of the top 10 players in the country in 2019, Lawn looked around and chose Louisville. The allure of “making it on her own” far from home was a draw but the hockey field wasn’t necessarily greener and after the 2020 fall season, Lawn wanted to reseed her career back at home. Now everyone is happier, including Meharg.
“When the recruiting process went earlier and earlier and earlier, I took almost a Gary Williams approach — are we really going to talk to ninth- and 10th-graders about where they want to spend a huge chapter of their lives?” she said. “I was concerned it was more of a parent recruitment than student-athlete. The rule changed, which was super healthy, and you can’t talk to any of them until June of their junior year.”
Meharg thought high school underclass student athletes were getting too much pressure too soon, before they were ready to make such big decisions. Looking back, Lawn would agree and she now credits Meharg with helping her rediscover her love for the game. The diminutive, 5-foot-3 stick-magician got into one game last spring at Maryland but has been a linchpin on the attack this fall with five goals and four assists, fourth on the team in scoring.
“She has all the positives you want from a student-athlete,” Meharg said. “She’s a tremendous student, very conscientious. She’s a spark of a player with her technical skills, her excitement, her speed on the ball. She’s a goal-scorer. She plays defense well and tactically, being a good student, she’s a very smart player.”
Lawn and Greenwalt, who played together at Spalding and in local club programs, trace much of their success to their powerhouse program in high school.
“Playing at Spalding was indescribable,” Lawn said. “It’s such a family like here at Maryland. Kyler and I went through it and learned how to balance academics and athletics. It really prepared me for college. I loved my four years at Spalding.”
“What was great about that environment was we could express ourselves and we had support behind us,” added Greenwalt, back then the first freshman to make varsity at Spalding in more than 20 years. “That helped us coming into college. We had confidence and that’s such a huge part. You’ve got to have confidence and know how to practice when you get here.”
Greenwalt practiced on Spalding’s turf all offseason before coming to Maryland in 2017, something Cavaliers coach Leslee Brady encouraged.
“Spalding has really become quite a hockey development program,” Meharg said. “Leslee Brady runs a great program, and a lot of those girls are very committed to the top field hockey clubs.”
And then those players go on to the top college programs and make themselves right at home.
Photo Credits: Zach Bland/Maryland Athletics