In his unofficial capacity as mascot of the Maryland women's lacrosse team, Rob Hawkins bakes bagels. One order is served with cream cheese and the customer's choice of melted cheese. It's called the Terrapin, and Terps coach Cathy Reese loves it.
Complex carbohydrates are low on the list of reasons Maryland has reached its fourth straight NCAA Division I championship game, but the Terps' traditional pregame pilgrimages to the Bagel Place of College Park are the (food)stuff of legends. What do you give a team that has seemingly everything? Hawkins' breakfast offerings and early-morning rhymes are part of the answer, because eating is involved.
Incredibly, for as good as Maryland is on a lacrosse field — 26 straight wins, five All-Americans, the season-long favorite to win its third straight national title — the Terps might be even more impressive at delis, family dining rooms and postgame tailgates. It is what keeps the team close. It is what keeps the team full.
"It's hard to explain. It's just a routine," Reese said Saturday of Maryland's Bagel Place. The top-seeded Terps will settle for a hotel meal before they get a taste of No. 3 seed North Carolina's upset bid Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa. "You just come and get something to eat, and that way we know the girls are fed and ready. Because you know what it's like in college."
A two-time All-American at the school in the late 1990s, Reese indeed knows what it's like at Maryland. She remembers Bagel Place, too; the family-owned business has sat on the corner of College Avenue and Route 1 since 1983. But team breakfasts at the campus establishment just weren't a thing.
That changed with her hire in 2007. "I think back to when I first came back to Maryland," she said. "I don't remember going anywhere different." And Bagel Place made sense for as many reasons as there are bagels available.
First, the timing: The Terps play a lot of early-afternoon weekend games. The place opens at 6:30 a.m. When the team shows up hours before the first draw, a horde of several dozen hungry players, coaches and support staff massing in front of the cashier, the bagels are fresh and the countdown has begun.
Then there's the food itself. One popular option among Maryland players, according to Hawkins: a scooped-out wheat bagel with peanut butter, a protein-packed treat for the hours of running ahead. There are also gluten-free options, in which Reese indulges. (Her oldest son, Riley, was diagnosed with celiac disease four years ago.)
What's maybe most important has no price tag. If the assigned order numbers are low enough, the Terps will swap receipts so that each player has digits matching her jersey number. When the food is ready, each order finds its way home to a happy teammate and happier stomach. A small gesture on a big team.
"Team meals are more than just an opportunity for us to fuel our bodies," junior midfielder Zoe Stukenberg (Marriotts Ridge) said. "It's just such a great time for all of us to get to know each other and laugh and joke, and sometimes we talk about lacrosse, and sometimes we don't."
Maryland eats more than breakfast food, of course. After the Terps' 19-9 win late Friday night over fourth-seeded Syracuse, Reese was asked how the team kept loose. "We ate a lot today," she said, meaning breakfast, lunch and dinner. "We squeeze a lot of meals in."
The night before a regular-season game in late March against Northwestern, senior midfielder and two-time Tewaaraton Award winner Taylor Cummings hosted a team dinner at her parents' home in Ellicott City. It was a chance to relax, to think about something other than the team's longtime rival. Even players' relatives were on hand for the feast: chicken Parmesan, salad, fresh bread, desserts, the works.
When Cummings announced, "All right, dinner!" the team cheered as if victory had been secured. The next night, Maryland won by 13 goals.