Inexperience stifles winless Terps women 3-time national champs are 0-2 after lost weekend

March 14, 1998|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

This wasn't the way the Maryland women's lacrosse team was supposed to follow up its third straight national championship -- with an 0-2 start.

The Terrapins returned from last weekend's Southern road trip stinging from a 10-6 loss to Duke Friday night and a 10-9 loss to North Carolina on Sunday. It is their first 0-2 start since 1989.

"To think that we lost more games in 48 hours than I've lost in my whole college career is a crazy feeling," said senior Cathy Nelson, a third-team All-American.

Until this week, Maryland had been ranked No. 1 in 24 consecutive Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association/Brine polls dating back to 1994. It now has dropped to No. 5, with North Carolina assuming the top spot.

During their run as the nation's top team, the Terps had gone 56-1 overall and 31-1 vs. ranked teams. Only Loyola had managed to hand them a loss, 7-6 last season. That one ended a 50-game Maryland win streak.

The Terps have long been at the top of every opponent's Most Wanted List, but even more so this year because they field one of the youngest teams in coach Cindy Timchal's tenure.

"It's like Maryland has a bull's-eye on its head and that's difficult when you have a younger, less-experienced team," said Timchal, who lost back-to-back games for the first time since she arrived at Maryland in 1991.

"It was a tough weekend," said Timchal, "but it was an incredible learning lesson. We could lose again, but our whole focus is on pulling together as a team and realizing that we will improve as the season goes on."

The Terps should get back on track at 1 p.m. this afternoon when they play host to first-year program Syracuse at Ludwig Field. After that, the Terps stay home for six more games, but the competition gets tougher, including No. 3 Virginia Wednesday and No. 2 Temple in two weeks.

Maryland's unprecedented dominance was due to be challenged, not just because the opposition is improving, but because the Terps don't have the same dominating talent they've had over the past five years.

Nine seniors graduated, including National Player of the Year Sarah Forbes and All-Americans Dana Gwaltney and Caryl Duckworth. There are 11 freshmen, and although 18 players return, few have had to be leaders in the past.

"There's a tendency," said Nelson, "when you come into a program like Maryland, with a reputation like Maryland has, that you think wins are going to be given to you, but we're not going to be handed a national championship."

Besides senior All-Americans Nelson and Sascha Newmarch, only four other Terps started all or most of last year's games -- senior Noelle Mitchell and sophomores Kristin Sommar, Christie Jenkins, and Alex Kahoe, co-ACC Goalie of the Year.

The Terps appear most suspect on defense, where they lost Gwaltney and Duckworth. Although all have started or received significant playing time, it will take awhile for the new unit of Sommar, Helena Herrmann, Kathleen Lund and Tonia Porras to adjust.

"A lot of people compare us to the national championship teams of the past two or three years," said Sommar, "but we're a young team. We're not there yet."

Pub Date: 3/14/98

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