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Falcons Travel To University Of Maryland, Compete With Terrapins
Messiah junior guard Nicky Hess launches a shot from the corner in the Falcons' exhibition game against the University of Maryland on Tuesday night.

Grantham, PA – Earlier this week, the Messiah women’s basketball team was ranked #22 in the D3hoops.com Preseason Top 25 poll. On Tuesday night, they put that ranking to the test by playing the #10-ranked team in the country—for NCAA Division 1.

The Falcons traveled to the University of Maryland on Tuesday night, falling to the Terrapins by a score of 82-36. The exhibition game was played in the Comcast Center in front of over 3,300 fans, and was an experience that head coach Mike Miller called, “completely positive.”

“It was an excellent experience,” said Miller. “From when we got off the bus, to how we were treated when we walked in. Everyone respected our program and made it a first-class experience.”

The Terrapins are ranked 10th in the USA Today/ESPN Division I Top 25 Preseason Coaches’ poll, which was released Tuesday, and 11th in the Associated Press rankings.

Before the game started, the team was met by former Messiah Falcon, and NCAA Division III All-American, Christina (Vouriotis) Hutchinson. “T” graduated in 2003 from Messiah, and remains the program’s all-time leader in points (1,702) and rebounds (862). She was the Commonwealth Conference Player of the Year in 2001, 2002, and 2003. Now working for the University of Maryland in Academic Support & Career Development, she addressed the team in the locker room before the game.

“It was great to here ‘T’ talk about her experiences as a player at Messiah,” said junior Katlyn Vanderhoff. “To hear how she approached games, and each season, it makes us realize that we’re going through the same thing and can achieve the same things.”

Shortly afterwards, the Falcons prepared to face the Terps on their home court—on live radio and television.

The game, which started off slowly for both squads, was the first exhibition or scrimmage for either team this year. The Terps held an 8-2 lead just under five minutes into the game. A layup by Vanderhoff made it 8-4. From there, Maryland would go on a 12-3 run to open up a 20-8 lead with 8:37 remaining in the first half.

Eventually, Maryland would go into the half with a 40-15 lead. In that frame, the Falcons forced nine turnovers for the home team.

In the second half, Messiah would force another 11 turnovers for the Terps while losing the rebound battle by a slim margin of 19-15. Regardless of the final score, Miller believes his team’s goals (for the exhibition) were achieved.

“One of the biggest goals we had was to compete at our highest possible level, having each other’s back,” he said. “We went out and pressured the ball, and competed together as a team. For that, we’re really pleased.”

The Falcons were led in scoring by junior forward Kira Maier, who scored nine points on 4-8 shooting from the field and 1-2 shooting from the free throw line. Vanderoff added seven points in her debut for the Falcons after transferring to Messiah from Division I Maine University over the summer.

As a team, the Falcons shot exactly 25% from the field (14-56), uncharacteristically misfiring a number of open attempts. It was the offensive execution that led to those attempts that Miller was excited about.

“I was pleased with our offense—we got good looks,” said Miller, whose team has participated in 12 straight NCAA Division III Tournaments. “We were able to create good looks and even get the ball inside.

“It was good to see them (Maryland) go zone and go to their press,” he added, reflecting on Maryland’s defensive schemes. “It’s not that they had to do that, but they wanted to do that to control the pace of the game. In the halfcourt, we were executing well.”

Throughout the game, Messiah’s offensive attack also led to aggressive interior play from Maier and junior forward Dori Gyori. That was no small task for Maier (5’11”) and Gyori (6’2”), as they were battling with the Terps’ front line of Alicia DeVaughn (6’4”), Tianna Hawkins (6’3”) and Essence Townsend (6’7”).

“(Maryland) is obviously very good,” said Miller. “We had realistic goals for the game, and I’m excited for how we competed. We forced turnovers and did a decent job in transition defense.”

“I think it shows us that we can compete at a high level,” said Vanderhoff. “ We played for each other out there and had each other’s back. It’s great experience for us to play against such a high-level team.”

After the game, the team’s coaches, players, parents, and local Messiah alumni gathered for a reception at Ledo’s Restaurant in College Park. The event, sponsored by the Falcon Athletic Network (F.A.N.), allowed for the group to further enjoy their unique experience as they prepare for the remainder of their preseason.

“I thought the F.A.N. event was awesome,” said Miller. “It was great to make connections between various groups—players, parents, and local fans. The whole night was positive.”

The F.A.N. event attracted over 75 people.

“The reception at Ledo’s was a great time for everyone,” added Messiah Athletics Director Jack Cole. “One of the main purposes of F.A.N. is to bring Falcons’ supporters together to connect and celebrate. It was a great time.”