Former Terps women's basketball players Marissa Coleman and Kim Rodgers sat quietly at a table in Looney's Bar and Pub on Route 1 in College Park as Sunday's Final Four game came to an end.
Maryland lost, 87-61, to undefeated Notre Dame at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Sunday, ending an inspired run to the national semifinal. The Fighting Irish (37-0) dominated the Terps (28-7) and led by 17 at halftime, en route to their third championship appearance in four years. It was a sad ending for the fans — those in Maryland and others who watched in Tennessee.
But Rodgers, a Terp from 2007 through 2012, saw the silver lining in the 26-point loss to Notre Dame.
"They're such a young team and they did a nice job of recovering," she said. "For the players who come back next season, it will help them to carry a lot of confidence remembering how it felt to lose like this on such a big stage."
The whole bar applauded as senior Alyssa Thomas, the program's all-time leading scorer, walked off the court with minutes to go in her final game.
"She's one of the best players ever to come through Maryland," said 23-year old Nick Orban after the clapping subsided. "We can look back and say she had Maryland spirit. She played and she did well all four years."
Colin Smith, a junior marketing student, said the way Thomas played reflected well on the university.
"It's a shame she couldn't go out on top," Smith, 21, said. "She really did a lot for this school."
Sunday ended Maryland's breakout run from the No. 4 seed in the Louisville region. Along the way, Maryland defeated No. 13 Army, No. 5 Texas, No. 1 Tennessee and No. 3 Louisville — the last two in enemy territory — before running into Notre Dame, which beat its four prior opponents by an average of 26 points entering Sunday's semifinal.
Alec Jennison and Alex Steckroth said they hadn't been to a women's basketball game this season but would consider going next year, given the team's success.
"It's hard for women's basketball to get appreciation," Jennison, 19, said. "Them going this far will help the student body care about it more."
"It's good that they made it that far," the sophomore economics student said. "Final Four — you can't say that for our men's team."
Steckroth, 20, said the team impressed him with its wins against Tennessee and Louisville on the road.
"I didn't think we'd get this far to begin with," the junior marketing student said. "Making it to the Final Four is a bit of a surprise, so I can rest easy tonight."
Hundreds of Terps fans made the trip to Nashville for the game. The group descended on a Marriott hotel near Vanderbilt University, where they handed out stickers and pompoms and made signs for the players during a send-off event before the game Sunday afternoon.
Cheerleaders and drummers from the Mighty Sound of Maryland marching band led the group in a "Go Maryland" chant as the players high-fived fans and boarded the bus for the arena before the game.
Many more planned to be there, but they never made it to Tennessee.
Two American Airlines flights to Nashville from Reagan International Airport near Washington, D.C., Sunday afternoon were canceled due to a mechanical issue with the plane, leaving fans stranded.
Andrea Huguely, a spokeswoman for the airline, said the company wasn't able to get the necessary airplane part immediately but did its best to make other arrangements for the 88 stranded passengers.
One fan who didn't arrive was university president Wallace Loh. The school said his flight was canceled due to mechanical problems and he was unable to get another flight that would make it to the game on time.