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Quentin Batalillon

General News 2024

Maryland leads the US Olympic hockey team

Kelee Lepage found out when she was woken from her sleep. Emma DeBerdine had been awake for four hours.

Lepage, DeBerdine, older sister Brooke and Leah Crouse learned June 10 that they would represent Maryland after being selected to the 16-player United States National Team for this summer’s Olympics. And Terp’s assistant coach and goalkeeping coordinator Jenny Rizzo was named provisional athlete and will travel with the team to Paris.

Maryland has the most players on the American roster. Northwestern, North Carolina and Penn State each have two players.

The opportunity to compete for the United States on the largest athletics stage in the world is one that the players do not take lightly.

“I feel like it is such an honor and a privilege to represent the United States,” said Lepage, a defense attorney. “And for most of us on the team it’s been a dream for so long. When I got the notification that I was on the team, I just shook. I felt like I was shaking for a while and I expected to cry or do some other stuff, but I think it was like, ‘Wow.’ It’s real life, not just a dream.”

Emma DeBerdine – a midfielder like her sister – was too excited to sleep the night before the national team roster was to be announced. So she woke up at 4 a.m. at her parents’ house in Millersville, Pennsylvania, and tried to stay busy until the 8 a.m. announcement.

“I was just really nervous because I knew what was going to happen,” she said. “I think it was just nerves and a little bit of fear because I knew I had to wait. It felt like it was so far away, but it was only a few hours.”

Crouse, another defender, also woke up early due to jet lag after returning from London a few days earlier. When she got the good news, her father Brad opened the front door of the family home and shouted, “We’re going to Paris!” to their neighbors.

“So I’m not sure who was more excited about it: me or my dad,” she joked. “He cried, and I cried. It was a great moment.”

All four Terps players are well versed in the international game with 184 combined appearances for the national team. Crouse and Emma DeBerdine helped the United States earn a silver medal at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, and all four spent at least one season in the International Hockey Federation’s Pro League.

But they recognized that participating in the Olympics has a different flavor.

“I feel like the Olympics have that name,” said the 26-year-old Lepage. “It’s the Olympics, but what we’re going to do is obviously play hockey. So I feel like we almost had a lot of preparation for it.”

All four enjoyed decorated careers at Maryland. Brooke DeBerdine became the first player in program history to start 100 games in her career from 2017 to 2021 and still owns the all-time school record with 104 starts.

Emma DeBerdine, who will play her final year in College Park this fall, has started 75 of 76 career games and has amassed 69 points on 23 goals and 23 assists. Lepage started 70 of 91 games from 2016-19, totaling 43 points on 11 goals and 21 assists. And in 2022, her lone season with the Terps after transferring from Duke, Crouse has amassed 25 points on 10 goals and five assists in 22 starts and led that team with five game-winning goals.

The foursome agreed that playing for longtime coach Missy Meharg and her staff helped shape their skills and provide the motivation to aim high. The Terps have won seven NCAA Tournament national championships – the last in 2011 – and have finished as runners-up six times under Meharg, who took over in 1988.

“Maryland field hockey requires excellence, and every day and every practice you have to show up, compete and do your best,” said the 24-year-old Crouse. “There’s just a tradition of success that you want to maintain. When you’re part of that, you really learn that you want to continue with that.”

Missy Meharg, longtime coach of the Terps hockey team, is among those who will help find a successor for recently departed athletic director Kevin Anderson.

Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun

Missy Meharg, longtime coach of the Terps hockey team, has helped players prepare for international competition. (Baltimore Sun file)

Five other Maryland players were named last month to the Under-21 national team that will compete in the Junior Pan American Championship in British Columbia, Canada, next month. They are forwards Maci Bradford and Ella Gaitan, midfielder Hope Rose, defender Josie Hollamon and goalkeeper Alyssa Klebasko, an Odenton native and Garrison Forest graduate.

Meharg spoke highly of her coaching staff and their love for the sport, which has helped them produce world-class players.

“I want Maryland hockey to be the place where young women can get high degrees, play great hockey and become champions,” she said. “But I am equally responsible for creating an environment where they can play for their country, become world champions and play in the Olympics. That’s always been a big plus for me, especially in recruiting, and I’m really a big part of that.”

The Maryland ties that bind the players run deep. But they emphasized that they are eager to combine their talents with their U.S. national teammates.

“That’s where we come from, but we are now one as the US,” Lepage said. “I feel like we have such a strong culture and friendship among everyone that we have that connection no matter where we went to school.”