Lily Grant’s most important assignment with Maryland women’s lacrosse takes place off the field.
Grant, a sophomore defender, is the team’s hype specialist, the one in charge of delivering a pregame pep talk to inspire her teammates. Just minutes before the games’ starters are introduced, all ears are attuned to the Pasadena native and Archbishop Spalding graduate as she speaks.
Grant’s transformation from shy underclassman into the Terps’ version of former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is a bit of a departure for her.
“I was actually very quiet on my travel team and kind of reserved in high school,” she said. “I would always lead by example and never had this vocal role before I got here.”
Graduate student defender Maddie Sanchez said Grant was made for the role.
“She’s basically the heart and soul of the team,” she said. “She’s hilarious, and she’s super motivating. So she was the perfect pick.”
Grant is the latest in a growing line of Maryland players who have taken up the role of firing up her teammates with their pregame speeches. The tradition began with attacker Bairre Reilly in 2017 and continued with defender Steff Holmes, a Marriottsville native and McDonogh graduate, in 2018; defender Victoria L’Insalata in 2019 and 2020; goalkeeper Madison Hine, a Phoenix native and Dulaney graduate, in 2021; and midfielder Darby Welsh, a Fallston native and St. Paul’s graduate, in 2022.
The aforementioned players played sparingly. And because of that, those players relished the opportunity to contribute to the program’s success via their pep talks.
“I didn’t so much care about playing time as much as I cared about contributing something to the team,” said Hine, who is a paralegal in the Baltimore County State’s Attorney office and will attend the University of Baltimore law school this fall. “For me, it really was an honor to have that role. It’s not a calculable stat, but it feels great to be that spark that starts everything.”
Grant was a four-year starter at Archbishop Spalding but has appeared in just five games in the past two seasons with the Terps. She acknowledged that the transition hasn’t been easy, but said she doesn’t regret choosing the school over James Madison, Johns Hopkins and Loyola Maryland.
“I’ve always had the mindset, ‘If there’s anything I can do for this team, I will,’ and if that means saying a speech and hyping everyone up, then of course I’m going to do it,” she said. “I absolutely love this team, and I love all of the girls on it, and I would do anything for this team.”
The role of hype artist became available after Welsh graduated last year, but Grant assumed that an older teammate would fill the vacancy. So she was stunned when Sanchez informed her a few days before the team’s season opener against Saint Joseph’s on Feb. 11 that the job was hers.
Sanchez said she and several veterans on the team agreed that Grant was well-suited to succeed Welsh, who was known for combining humor and inspiration in a few choice sentences.
“We needed someone who was equally as witty, and I think she was just perfect for the job regardless of her age,” Sanchez said. “She was ready.”
The day before the game against Saint Joseph’s, Grant sat inside SECU Stadium with her notebook and Sanchez, sophomore midfielder Natalie Pansini and redshirt junior defender Clancy Rheude. Since then, she has leaned on what she called her “ghostwriting team” that includes three roommates — redshirt freshman D Kennedy Major, a Hampstead native and Gerstell graduate, redshirt freshman midfielder Celia Pell, a Catonsville native and Glenelg Country graduate, and sophomore attacker Hailey Russo — and Pansini.
“It got to the point where when we would go on away trips and stay in hotels, my roommates would get excited and say, ‘She’s going to write the speech tonight!’” Grant said. “It became this fun team event, and I think it’s cool that it turned into that.”
Grant said she usually incorporates themes the coaching staff has emphasized in the days before games as foundations for her speeches. For the Terps’ matchup against Northwestern in Saturday night’s Big Ten Tournament final, she recited from memory a speech by ice hockey coach Herb Brooks (as portrayed by Kurt Russell) in “Miracle,” Disney’s characterization of the American team’s upset of the Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.
“I watched the video maybe three times, and then my roommate on the trip was Kennedy Major, and she probably heard me say that speech in our bathroom mirror 80-some times,” Grant said, crediting Pansini for suggesting the idea.
Although Maryland fell to the Wildcats, 14-9, coach Cathy Reese said she appreciates how Grant’s devotion to her craft has bonded her teammates.
“I just love the chemistry that it builds up,” said Reese, who is adamant about not getting involved in the selection process or the speech writing. “It’s about believing in each other and having each other’s back, and when they have that moment together, that can inspire and motivate each other. That’s their thing, and I think it’s awesome.”
Grant said it can take her between 10 to 60 minutes to write a speech, which she has trimmed from almost a full page to a paragraph or two. She admitted she is superstitious about writing her speeches the nights before games and will wait until Thursday before the Terps (14-6) meet Drexel (12-5) in an NCAA Tournament first-round game Friday at 5 p.m. in Harrisonburg, Virginia. “It’s bad ju-ju if I do it anytime before,” she said.
Although Grant has seen little playing time this spring, Sanchez said she has noticed a change in her younger teammate’s demeanor.
“She’s definitely gotten more confident with it, and I think it’s super nice to see her have fun with it,” she said.
With Grant having two more years of eligibility, Sanchez said it would be “silly” to remove Grant from that role. Grant did not jump to a similar conclusion but did add one caveat.
“You’re going to have to steal it from me if you want it,” she said with a laugh.
NCAA Tournament first round
Maryland vs. Drexel
At Harrisonburg, Virginia
Friday, 5 p.m.