For Maryland guard Shay Doron, the worst part about Tuesday night's 75-65 loss to Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA tournament was that the Terrapins didn't have another game to play.
"The saddest part about ending the season is -- forget about I have two years left, Crystal [Langhorne] has three -- this team is never going to be a team again," Doron said. "Every year is a different team, and every year is a different mentality and a different personality. This year's team is one of the best teams I've ever been on personality-wise, basketball-wise. It's just a shame to see it end right now. What hurts the most right now is knowing that this team is never going to play together again. It's hit us all."
The melancholy shouldn't linger long for Maryland, which has every reason to be optimistic about next season. The Terrapins have the core of their team back, including injured freshman forward Laura Harper, and will welcome two highly touted recruits, guards Marissa Coleman (St. John's) and Kristi Toliver.
Because they were counted on for so much this past season, Maryland's underclassmen -- eight of the 12 players on the roster were freshmen or sophomores -- should provide a solid foundation. Sophomores Doron and Kalika France and Langhorne, a freshman, accounted for nearly 63 percent of the team's scoring and 46 percent of its rebounding.
"The experience these young kids got is only going to help this program get better and better," Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. "If you would have told me when Laura Harper went down [with a ruptured Achilles' tendon] -- who was actually leading the conference in rebounding over Crystal at that time and really who I thought was going to get freshman of the year in the league -- I think how exciting it is to go to the second round and win 22 games with this group."
Harper, who played only nine games this year, and Langhorne will give Maryland a formidable front court. Jade Perry, another freshman, is a strong post defender. Doron is becoming one of the ACC's top scoring threats. France, when not bothered by knee pain, is a nice complement to Doron in the back court. Freshman guard Ashleigh Newman, who scored 12 points against Ohio State, is developing into another potent scorer. The Terrapins will miss senior Anesia Smith for her leadership, but expect Toliver to fill her point guard role.
Maryland's 22 wins -- the first 20-win season under Frese -- were the most since 1993. The Terrapins averaged 73 points, their highest scoring output in 12 years. Their 42.6 rebounds per game were their most in 25 years. Langhorne was selected the ACC rookie of the year. Doron was a first-team all-ACC selection.
"I think next year's team is going to be very dominant," France said. "Now Harp knows how to be a vocal leader, even more so with the injury. Shay, she took her game to another level this year, and Lang [did also]. It's definitely going to be something special."