COLLEGE PARK, MD. >> Regardless of how Maryland fares in the NCAA Tournament, this squad will always be remembered by coach Brenda Frese for its ability to shine in the face of adversity.
Following an offseason in which they lost their top two scorers and a pair of assistant coaches, the Terrapins secured their sixth 30-win season under Frese and a second consecutive Big Ten championship. Second-seeded Maryland (30-3) will begin its quest for a third successive trip to the Final Four against Iona (23-11) at home on Saturday.
"We're ready to take this as far as we can," Frese said.
Frese won the NCAA championship at Maryland in 2006 and has made seven trips to the Sweet 16. This team is already notable for what it had to overcome to succeed.
An offseason of change began last April after the final buzzer of Maryland's 81-58 semifinal loss to eventual champion Connecticut. Not only did the Terrapins lose senior Laurin Mincy, but guard Lexie Brown left the school, saying she was homesick.
In addition, longtime assistants Tina Langley and Marlin Chinn departed to become head coaches elsewhere.
"It was by far one of the toughest offseasons," Frese said.
No matter. Maryland opened with 11 straight wins and, despite losing twice to Ohio State, bounced back to capture the Big Ten regular season crown. The Terrapins backed that up by winning the conference tournament.
"This has been one of the most rewarding teams I've ever coached, so however it's going to finish, it will go down that way," Frese said. "It's been fun going in to coach this team — how they conduct themselves and who they are as people. They treat each other as a bunch of sisters. They're really a tight-knit group."
Senior Brene Moseley knows she's good enough to start, but the Terrapins need her as a spark off the bench. So she gladly played the role of a reserve, averaging 11.4 points to go with her team-high 197 assists.
Asked to compare this season to the one that preceded it, Moseley said, "It's been harder but it's definitely been more fun. It's fun to continue building what we've been doing since the beginning."
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough leads the team with 19.5 points per game. But there are a variety of contributors, including leading rebounder Brionna Jones.
"There was definitely a little adjustment that had to be made at the beginning of the season," Jones said, "but we embraced the change and moved forward."
The only flaws in the season thus far have been a 10-point loss to No. 1 UConn and those two defeats against Ohio State. Since that second setback against the Buckeyes, Maryland has peeled off nine wins in a row.
No wonder Frese beams when talking about this team, the 12th to advance to the NCAA Tournament in her 14 years at Maryland.
"To be able to see the work they had to put to be able to have a 30-plus win season has been really rewarding," she said. "What has separated this team from any other team has been their chemistry. They have been rock solid through a lot of change, and have been so consistent through everything."