Terps try doing as Coppedge does, not says

Top lacrosse scorer opts to lead team by example


April 23, 2004|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Kelly Coppedge has no problem leading Maryland's women's lacrosse team on the field.

With 55 goals and 22 assists as the No. 2 Terrapins head into today's opening round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, the All-America senior midfielder has almost twice as many points as the second-most prolific Terp. For her career, she has scored more goals (202) than any other Maryland player except three-time national Player of the Year Jen Adams.

Off the field, Coppedge isn't as comfortable with the leadership mantle.

"It's pretty difficult for me because I'm not an outspoken person," said Coppedge, 21. "I'd rather lead by example instead of telling people."

That's just fine with Maryland coach Cindy Timchal, who said the St. Mary's graduate has grown into a leadership role molded to suit her personality.

"There's all different ways of leading," Timchal said. "Kelly's not as vocal on the field, but she always says the right thing. In her own way, she leads, obviously by example, playing hard and competing all the time in practice or in the games."

The Terps would pretty much follow Coppedge anywhere, said teammate and close friend Acacia Walker.

"It's crazy how much the girls look up to her -- and not just the younger girls. I'm only a year younger, and I look up to her," said Walker, an Annapolis graduate who grew up not far from Coppedge.

On the field, Coppedge lets her game speak for her, and it says volumes.

Since her freshman season, Coppedge has been scoring crucial goals -- three in the 2001 NCAA championship game, one in overtime. Last season, she was the Division I Midfielder of the Year and the ACC Player of the Year.

This season, Coppedge is a one-woman box score. In addition to leading the Terps in scoring, she also leads or shares the lead in ground balls, draw controls and caused turnovers. She has five game-winning goals and has scored six or more goals six times.

Coppedge likely will need another big game in today's 3:30 p.m. ACC opener against second-seeded Virginia in Chapel Hill, N.C. The third-seeded Terps aim to atone for their two losses -- 10-8 to the Cavaliers and 9-7 to top-seeded Duke -- in the tournament.

After starting the season 2-2, the Terps (12-2) have won 10 straight. Coppedge sparked the turnaround with 19 goals and six assists in the first three games of the streak. She later had six goals and two assists in perhaps the Terps' biggest win of the season, 13-8, over then-No. 2 Georgetown on April 7.

"She's one of the most dynamic players in the country," said Virginia coach Julie Myers. "She's able to see things, and she works hard to be able to put herself in position to be highly effective."

Coppedge seems to have a sixth sense for getting open in the arc.

Walker said she still can't figure out how Coppedge creates that space, just that she "thinks the game" differently than other players. "She waits for the defense to make mistakes. It's similar to Jen [Adams], the way she reads lacrosse and the plays different than anyone I've ever seen."

Adams, now a Terps assistant coach, said it's a matter of processing the big picture.

"She sees the pattern of how the whole field is going. It's about mapping it out in your head and seeing things before they happen," said Adams, who used a similar feel for the game to become the NCAA's all-time points leader with 445.

Comparisons with her mentor baffle Coppedge, who can't comprehend that her game reaches anywhere near Adams' stratosphere. She had no idea she was even approaching her 200th point when she became only the 22nd player in Division I history to reach the milestone.

Coppedge's biggest worry right now is what she'll do without lacrosse. Scheduled to graduate with a major in marketing after two summer classes, she might try out for the national team with a look toward next summer's World Cup in Annapolis. She's thinking more seriously about backpacking through Europe, instead.

Meantime, Coppedge is aiming for another national championship. She hasn't forgotten what it felt like after defeating Georgetown, 14-13, in double overtime at Johns Hopkins to win that title as a freshman -- the last of Maryland's record seven straight crowns.

"I remember the feeling of walking off the field thinking we're the best team in the nation and I'm playing with some of the best girls that have ever played the sport. Everyone wants that so badly."

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