Duo gives Terps title pedigree

New coaches Reese, Adams quickly target national championship

Women's lacrosse preview

February 17, 2007|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun reporter

Occasionally during their two years coaching together at Denver, Cathy Nelson Reese and Jen Adams would talk about their dream job in women's lacrosse - running the show at Maryland.

The former Terrapins All-Americans figured the dream was surely out of reach at least for a while.

Cindy Timchal seemed entrenched in the job, taking the Terrapins to the NCAA tournament in each of her 16 seasons and winning eight national championships while accumulating more wins than any other college coach in women's lacrosse history.

But in August, Timchal left to start a varsity program at the Naval Academy.

The call soon came for Reese to take over as Terps head coach. Adams, her assistant at Denver, was part of the deal.

Denver's head coach for three years, Reese acknowledged having mixed emotions after leading the Pioneers to their best season at 15-5 in 2006.

"Part of [the decision] was easy, but then part of it was really hard - to leave your student-athletes that you've grown attached to. We had worked really hard to build Denver's program and worked really hard bringing a lot of very talented players in," said Reese, The Sun's 1994 All-Metro Player of the Year at Mount Hebron who relocated with her husband, Brian, and their two young sons.

High expectations

Now, Reese, 30, and Adams, 27, must make the transition from an up-and-coming program to a national power.

Expectations are much higher in College Park, where the Terps are coming off a 12-8 season and a loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

"We fully expect to be a consistent final-four level program," said Randy Eaton, Maryland's associate athletic director for business and the women's lacrosse supervisor. "Just getting into the field of 16 does not meet Maryland's expectations, nor does it meet the expectations of Cathy and Jen. All of us are on the same page on this issue."

Reese and Adams had a lot to do with building those expectations.

Maryland won a national title every year the two played - seven in a row through 2001. They overlapped for one year, 1999, and later coached together as Terps assistants.

They appear fully qualified to carry on the tradition.

"A lot's expected," Reese said, "but I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We want to see the team do well. We want to see the girls get to the point where they're experiencing a lot of what we did. It's a lot of pressure we put on ourselves to do well and come right in and really make a difference."

It isn't just winning they want their players to experience, but the closeness of the team and Timchal's theory that playing for each other and doing your best breed success.

Reese and Adams said they tried hard to promote that atmosphere at Denver, but at Maryland it is perpetuated by the players.

"It's not just being part of a team. It's something bigger and better, and that's something that I think hasn't changed a bit," Adams said. "I don't remember times on the field in championships, but I remember my friends and the things we did and the fun we had practicing, things like that. That's what these girls are going to remember."

Some Terps had played for Reese and Adams when they were Maryland assistant coaches, but senior Jen Greenberg said they are still in awe of Adams, a three-time national Player of the Year and Australian World Cup player widely regarded as the best to ever play the game.

"She's everyone's role model and to have her as a coach is just amazing," Greenberg said. "Cathy and Jen get out on the field with us. They're young and they have a lot of energy, and it definitely shows at practice."

Senior Becky Clipp said their system, which includes more emphasis on conditioning, is new but comfortable.

"Cathy and Jen played under Cindy, so things are very familiar to us," Clipp said. "I don't think I had to change the way I play. They didn't come in and completely blow us away with change. Other coaches that might have come in, it would have been completely different."

UMBC coach Courtney (Martinez) Connor, whose Retrievers play host to Maryland in Monday's season opener at 3 p.m., said her former teammates' experience as Terps players and assistant coaches certainly smoothed the transition in College Park.

"It'll be tough to follow in Cindy's footsteps, but I think those two can," Connor said. "They were involved in winning all those national championships, so they know what it takes. That's definitely a positive instead of bringing somebody in from outside who wasn't brought up Maryland."

Double vision

After so many years as friends and colleagues, Reese and Adams bring a unique rapport to their coaching style. Reese is the head coach and Adams the assistant, but you would never know that to watch them together on the field.

They have much the same vision for the game. They encourage the same creative expression they played with. They listen to their players and are open to learning from them. Most coaching duties are shared.

Adams has no plans to venture out on her own.

"I feel like Cathy gives me as much freedom as I would have being a head coach myself somewhere else," Adams said. "Instead, I'm able to come to work every day and work with one of my best friends and enjoy the experience. Plus being able to coach back at your school where we had such an incredible experience, you can't get a better job in the profession, I don't believe."

The mission now for Reese and Adams is to kick-start the next evolution of the game, to find the new competitive edge for Maryland.

The Terps reigned with superior stick skills. Northwestern, which has won the past two national titles, rose to the top with speed and exceptionally fit athletes.

Where will the sport go next?

If Reese and Adams know, they're not telling.

Watch for the answer over the next couple years.

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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