Terps' arrival time draws near

As Maryland, Frese patiently build, so do national expectations

State Division I Women

November 18, 2005|By EDWARD LEE | EDWARD LEE,SUN REPORTER

There's a sense of optimism, glee and excitement enveloping the Maryland women's basketball team, which boasts three straight top-10 recruiting classes and is ranked in the top 15 in five publications.

What isn't there is a sense of urgency emphasizing a "win now" mantra.

"I don't think we look at it from that aspect," junior guard Shay Doron said. "We put pressure on ourselves because we love to win and work hard. But we don't listen to what's going on outside. ... We haven't proved we're a top-10 team or anything. We need to prove what we think we can do."

Doron's cautious sentiments are born out of pragmatism, not pessimism. Although Maryland graduated just one starter from last year's squad that went 22-10 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season, this year's roster is nearly as young with just two seniors on the team.

In fact, when the Terps take the court tonight against Siena in Loudonville, N.Y., the starting lineup will likely include one junior, two sophomores and two freshmen.

"We're still just trying to get a feel for this team," coach Brenda Frese said. "We are extremely talented, but we still are very young. We're going to have growing pains just like every young program does, especially with that kind of youth."

In fact, Frese said she and the players don't give much weight to the preseason rankings. Maryland earned the No. 14 slot in both the preseason Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls - the program's highest ranking in both forums since the 1992-93 season.

"I think this team has kept it in perspective," she said. "I think they recognize the preseason rankings for what they are. They're preseason rankings, and although it's nice to get attention for our team and for our program, it doesn't put any more or less pressure on us. We continue to just want to go out and learn and get better. If we work hard and really work to try and get better, good things will happen for us."

Still, this season's squad is filled with skilled players at every position. Doron, junior guard Kalika France and sophomore guard Ashleigh Newman make up a formidable trio on the perimeter that can slash to the basket or pull up to shoot mid- and long-range jumpers.

Sophomore 6-foot-2 forward Crystal Langhorne, who was voted the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year, will get post help from sophomore 6-foot-4 center Laura Harper, who returns from a ruptured Achilles' tendon, and sophomore 6-foot-1 forward Jade Perry.

The Terps will expect contributions from two freshmen: forward Marissa Coleman and point guard Kristi Toliver. Toliver, in particular, will be counted on to run the half-court offense and take advantage of scoring opportunities, unlike her predecessor Anesia Smith, who was more of a defensive presence.

With junior center Aurelie Noirez and senior forwards Charmaine Carr and Angel Ross playing significant minutes last season, Frese said she is comfortable using every player on the roster.

"I think the nice thing is we don't have to conserve and coach this year like we've had to in years past when our guards and post were playing anywhere from 30 to 35 minutes a game," she said. "The minute that we have a player who isn't playing hard, we're able to put another player in. I really think we can go out and play a lot harder than we have in years past."

But with so many players itching to play, will there be grumbling when the minutes are at a premium? Harper said she doesn't think so.

"I guess with any team with talented players, there will be questions about who will play," she said. "But we work hard to challenge ourselves and get better. We want for each other to win. Whoever's out there, we're rooting for everyone."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

MARYLAND

Coach: Brenda Frese, fourth season at Maryland (50-41)

Affiliation: Atlantic Coast Conference

2004-05 record: 22-10 (7-7 ACC)

Arena: Comcast Center (17,950)

Consensus ACC favorite: Duke

Consensus Maryland prediction: Third

Starters lost: One

Outlook: There's a reason the Terps have been selected to finish third in the conference behind perennial powerhouses Duke and North Carolina. Four starters are back - including All-ACC first-team selection Shay Doron and conference Rookie of the Year Crystal Langhorne - and the arrival of high school All-Americans Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver add punch and promise to the coming season. The bench is so deep that Frese has said she would be comfortable with subbing her starting five with the next five. The key could be the play of sophomore center-forward Laura Harper. Before her Achilles' tendon rupture last December, Harper was nearly averaging a double double (13.2 points and 9.8 rebounds). Her return might force opposing defenses to sag off Langhorne and solidify a unit that finished last season ranked first in rebounding margin in ACC games.

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