Over the years, the combination of coaching and talent has kept the women's basketball program at the University of Maryland one of the country's top teams.
When the Terrapins open their season at home tomorrow night against George Mason, it will mark the beginning of a 16th season for head coach Chris Weller, and once again, her team is included in the Associated Press preseason poll, at No. 18.
In the past, a ranking usually was based on the superior talent of a cast of veterans. This time, Weller's coaching ability figures as heavily do the players.
There are nine holdovers from last season's 19-11 team that went to the second round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, but none of them started more than 17 games. And only Baltimorean Dafne Lee (Walbrook), a 5-foot-11 junior forward, played in every game (9.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg).
The starting lineup for the Terps will include only one senior, Carla Holmes, a three-year regular at guard. She will be joined by junior forward Sue Panek, a backup the past two years, sophomores Jessie Hicks and Estelle Christy, and Bonnie Rimkus, a 6-4 freshman forward.
In two preseason games, a win over Athletes in Action and a loss to the Finnish National Team, Hicks, a 6-4 center, averaged 25 points and Christy, a 5-8 guard, 19.
Four local teams will start tonight with the second annual Big Four Classic at Loyola College. The opening doubleheader will send the University of Maryland Baltimore County against Coppin State and Towson State against Loyola. Tomorrow night, it will be Towson State-Coppin State and UMBC-Loyola. Game times are 6 and 8.
The head coaches expect their teams to improve on last season, when Towson State's 11-16 record was the best of the four.
The Tigers lost four senior starters, and there is only one senior among eight letter-winners, guard Gina Daniel. Among the others are juniors Tara Rottet and Amy Green, second and third in team scoring a year ago with averages of 12.4 and 10.5, respectively.
At UMBC (10-18), there are five holdovers, and they are $l expected to be the starters. Felice Pinkney, a 6-0 forward, is the only senior on the 12-player team, and she returns as the leading scorer, 15.2.
Coppin State returns four starters from an 8-19 team, led by forward Regina Nolan, who averaged 14 points. The fifth position will be filled by junior Laura Medley, a 6-2 transfer from Essex Community College.
Loyola (2-26) has seven holdovers plus 5-11 sophomore Traci Borden, a transfer from Santa Clara, to go with four freshmen. A key veteran is Justine Shay, a 6-2 junior center.
The other Division I programs are at Morgan State, where senior captain Cheryl Jackson (8 ppg, 8 rpg) is the chief holdover; the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, where junior forward Susan Buckson is the top returning scorer at 10.8 points from last season's 12-16 entry; and Mount St. Mary's, where four starters are back, but the missing one, Kim Rhock, averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds, and was the Northeast Conference Player of the Year. Vanessa Blair, a 6-0 center (14.4 ppg, 7 rpg), is among the veterans.
Navy will be marking its final year as a Division II program before stepping up to Division I, and will count on junior guard Angie Dobbs (Perry Hall), who averaged 19.5 points as the Midshipmen went 1-1 in their tournament last week. Second-year coach Pam Kelly is the only holdover at Bowie State, as she has junior newcomer Sonya Wilson and nine freshmen.
Among the Division III teams, four-year starters and three-year co-captains Juliane Rolapp and Kristie Kantowski lead a Johns Hopkins team that expects to make an impact on both its conferences -- the Middle Atlantic and University Athletic
Association. Nine letter-winners include the five starters from last season's 18-7 team, which earned its first postseason bid.
Senior Jennifer Kammueller (fifth in Division III rebounding at 15.6) and sophomore Renie Amoss, the third-leading scorer (top freshman) in Division III last year (25.1 and a school-record 578 points), are the Goucher leaders; at the College of Notre Dame, Toyah Houck is expected to be a top scorer; senior Sheila Colbert (19 ppg, 14 rpg), Frostburg State's all-time scorer, heads the Bobcats, who are seeking to improve on a 22-6 record.
Also, St. Mary's has a new conference (Capital), a new coach (Pam Wojnar), and three holdovers, including scoring leader Tara Call from a 3-16 team; twins Connie and Christie Ivison return at Salisbury State; and Western Maryland expects help from junior co-captain Angie Alfano and sophomore transfer Debbie Shockley.