I think for us it's really about sustaining excellence and for our program to keep improving, Frese said. The challenge is to continue to set that bar even higher to separate ourselves.
The defending Atlantic Coast Conference champions have established themselves as one of the best women's basketball programs in the nation, but that didn't stop the conferences' 47-member Blue Ribbon panel from picking Duke to win the league this year. However, Frese is still expecting Maryland to stay true to its identity and continue working regardless of expectations.
This season we expect to continue to be a dominant rebounding team, Frese said. That's been our identity for a long time. We expect to be top five in the nation, that's something we take a lot of pride in.
Frese also said that the team wants to be fast-paced and up-tempo, and new performance coach Katie Fowler has already helped in that regard. Frese believes the team's defense has also improved thanks to increased fitness levels.
I think the biggest compliment I can give to this team from a year ago is that they're not satisfied, Frese said. Obviously, the humbling loss we had to Notre Dame last season really fueled the team into our postseason and summer in terms of our training. It was evident after we got back from the time off they were immediately back into the gym and the weight room.
Returning players weren't the only ones hitting the gym in the summer. Comprising one of the best recruiting classes in the country, freshmen Malina Howard, Tierney Pfirman, and Chloe Pavlech were on campus as soon as possible to get started on their training.
Our three freshmen came in for both sessions of summer school, so they were here for 12 weeks, Frese said. So again you can look at our team when you see them down on the floor, again just an extremely fit team that is really disciplined in terms of their level of fitness, their nutrition, when you look at their body types you know they're just tremendous in terms of the discipline they put to preparing themselves this season.
Such characteristics led Frese to call this year's team By far the hardest working team that I feel like I've ever coached collectively, and everything from team workouts to team dinners have really contributed to the group's cohesiveness.
Well I compare this team chemistry-wise a lot to the [national champion] 2006 team. They're extremely close, Frese said. They're very comfortable like they're sisters, but they just have that natural chemistry where they want to spend a lot of time together. They go to the movies together, they go shopping, they eat meals together, and it's genuine. You see it transfer from the times they're off the court to when they are on the court.
Though the Terps have plenty of talent in Preseason All-ACC players Alyssa Thomas, Tianna Hawkins, and Laurin Mincy, Frese acknowledged that depth could be an issue.
Obviously our team is thin, we have 11 players, Frese said. I think the biggest thing is the ownership on the coaches and we have to be smart with the amount of time with our practice preparation. We don't need to be on the floor longer than two hours, maybe even 90 minutes.
That 11 player roster could even be reduced to 10, as sophomore Brene Moseley suffered a recent knee injury. The Terps staff is waiting on MRI results to determine the extent of the injury, but Moseley, along with junior Laurin Mincy, had been primed to take on the added responsibility of playing point guard. For now, that challenge is left to Mincy.
She's added a lot more strength to her game. She's going to really play a versatile role for us this year, Frese said of the 6'0 guard. It's been really exciting for us as a coaching staff to see her length and how she's handling the basketball for our team, and just her versatility to play multiple positions.
With the additions of a highly regarded freshmen class and junior Katie Rutan coming off a redshirt season, the Terps seem poised for another title run despite their limited roster.