After winning eight national titles and 20 conference championships in 28 years at the helm, Maryland field hockey coach Missy Meharg has developed quite a reputation on the recruiting trail, to say the least. Her classes routinely rank among the nation’s upper-tier, prospects readily taking to the Terps’ staff while eager to compete for a championship.
In mid-August, Meharg landed yet another touted talent when Penn Manor (Millersville, Pa.) class of 2017 midfielder Brooke DeBerdine pledged to Maryland following an official visit.
“At first I was looking at smaller school and never really thought I’d go to a bigger school like Maryland,” said DeBerdine, who ironically enough, stands just 4-feet-11 and mentioned how her friends joke that she’s ‘a legal [dwarf].’ “I didn’t really think I would fit in with a lot of people, but then when I visited [in early August] I realized that there are a lot of people really close to you and it’s a close community there. And I just loved Missy and all the girls on the team; they were so welcoming. What Missy’s done there, she’s a great coach and she’s always able to get great girls. I love how she’s able to transform any team she has into a great one.”
DeBerdine said she also looked at Wake Forest, Duke, Princeton and Penn State, but after visiting Maryland, “I knew it was the best fit.” She specifically noted UMD’s kinesiology and physical therapy programs as one of the school’s main attractions, but couldn’t say enough about Meharg and Co.
“I actually went back to Maryland for their scrimmage against James Madison, after I had committed. And I just loved watching the girls play,” DeBerdine said. “I love their style, I love how fast they play and I think they just really have fun out there. It’s a great program at Maryland.”
The Key Stone State native is considered one of the region’s premier prospects, which is quite an accomplishment considering she’s only been playing field hockey for about four years. DeBerdine said she mainly played soccer during her younger years, but when she arrived at Penn Manor in the seventh grade (it’s a six-year school) she decided to try something new at the behest of her friends.
“Soccer got boring for me and I felt worn out by it. But field hockey, it’s pretty good at my school, and I saw a few other girls that were going on to play at college and with the [U.S.] national team, so that was kind of cool too,” said DeBerdine, who noted that she dabbled with field hockey a bit in elementary school. “So I decided to give field hockey a try and I loved it. I loved the speed of it, and I feel like you can do so much with field hockey and build off so many skills. And I just loved … seeing how players flew around the field. I love running, so that really turned me on to field hockey.”
DeBerdine evidently developed rather quickly, her head coach, Matt Soto, helping to mold the seventh grader’s inherent skill-set. Soto called DeBerdine “one of the fastest players in the league,” so the raw physical abilities were already present.
“Coach Soto knows how to push you; I like being pushed and told what’s wrong,” DeBerdine said. “He really helped me with that and how to improve, fixing things I’m doing wrong.
“So now I think I know when to use my speed. I think I’m a pretty good passer, and I know where to put the ball for girls to hang onto it and make a play. I’m working on my shooting and taking different shots, but I’m getting there.”
DeBerdine showed enough promise to earn a spot on the U17 U.S. National Team following a superb ninth-grade season at Penn Manor. She said making that team “opened my eyes” about a possible college career, proof she could hang with the best players in the country.
“Being on that team, it showed me that I was gifted with talent,” said DeBerdine, who also plays for the Nook Field Hockey club in Lancaster County. “But, honestly, it’s been a great experience playing for them, and I’ve met a lot of really cool girls and had a lot of fun. I’ve met a few players who are going to be in my class at Maryland, so we’re already sort of connecting. And last year we had a chance to go to Belgium, and that was really cool for me too.”
It was during a U17 indoor match last year where DeBerdine had what she dubbed her “defining moment.” She described a game against a powerful foe that presented a true challenge defensively. But during a particular transition play, DeBerdine shot behind the defense, took a pass in stride and delivered a strike that found the back of the net.
“I was pretty far out when I scored too,” DeBerdine said. “That was really cool for me. It was a pretty awesome moment.”
She’s hoping to have plenty more during her last two seasons at Penn Manor, which won the state title last year. After that, DeBerdine said she can’t wait to arrive in College Park, Md.
“I just hope to come in and get the best experience that I can and really help Maryland win. I know all the girls there, and they’re great, and hopefully they can help me get better, as well as the coaches,” DeBerdine said. “I’m just hoping to have a great, great time when I get there. I know I will.”