March 26, 2023 

‘No one expected us to be here’: Brenda Frese’s one-year rebuild catapults Maryland into the Elite Eight

The Terps are headed to their first Elite Eight since 2015

Brenda Frese had her work cut out for her entering the 2022-23 season with Maryland.

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After losing to Stanford, 72-66, in last year’s Sweet 16, it was clear the roster entering this year would look a bit different, but it wasn’t clear just how different.

Of course, Angel Reese transferred to LSU, Ashley Owusu left for Virginia Tech and Mimi Collins left for NC State, while Chloe Bibby and Katie Benzan graduated.

Just two players who played in that game – Diamond Miller and Shyanne Sellers – would return.

The Terps had lost back-to-back Sweet 16 games by a combined nine points, and with much of that core departed, Maryland’s ability to clear that hurdle in 2022-23 felt improbable.

Yet, on Saturday afternoon, Miller and Sellers led the way to a 76-59 Sweet 16 win over a depleted Notre Dame team and into that elusive Elite Eight.

“No one expected us to be here this year,” Frese told reporters on Friday. “We had a lot of questions, nine new players, we lost 87 percent of our offense. Just extremely proud of our staff and our team for buying in and trusting in the process. Obviously, we’re led by All-American Diamond Miller, but it goes to show when a team is unselfish and plays with great chemistry, great things can happen.”

Miller had 18 points on 6-for-17 shooting on Saturday; Sellers had 18 points and eight assists.

In a Big Ten conference featuring Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes, among other great players, Maryland often flew under the radar this season. Perhaps after last year’s worrying finish, that was for the best.

“It was a locker room that was ‘me’ centered versus ‘we’ centered,” Frese said of last year’s team after Saturday’s win.

Now, she and her players can’t make it through a press conference without the word “unselfish” or something synonymous popping up several times.

“I think our team did a phenomenal job of just putting their head down and going to work,” Sellers said on Friday. “There wasn’t too much complaining about anything, and everyone was really open and welcoming to everyone.”

Abby Meyers transferred in from Princeton; Faith Masonius returned from a torn ACL; Lavender Briggs came from Florida; Elisa Pinzan from USF; Brinae Alexander from Vanderbilt.

And while Miller’s undoubtedly the axis on which Maryland spins, it’s in such a way that fits smoothly with the rest of the group.

She, too, could’ve departed the program during last year’s mass exodus. But she felt it made the most sense to stick it out. It’s hard to question that decision now that Maryland will head to its first Elite Eight since 2015.

“If I were to [have transferred], I would have played with a new group of girls; and if I stayed, I would have played with a new group of girls,” Miller said Saturday, detailing her thought process. “When you look at it like that, I was like, I’m just going to stay and trust the process. And I’m so happy I did because I don’t know what school I would have committed to, but would we be at the Elite Eight now? I don’t know. But here we are.”

Written by Eric Rynston-Lobel

Eric Rynston-Lobel has been a contributor to The Next since August 2022. He covered Northwestern women's basketball extensively in his four years as a student there for WNUR and now works as a sports reporter for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.

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