Jones sisters stick together on Terps lacrosse team

Their fast moves on field help undefeated Maryland

March 31, 2010|By Katherine Dunn | katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

It wasn't Brandi Jones' idea for her big sister Brittany to join her on Maryland's women's lacrosse team.

When Brandi signed with the Terrapins three years ago, she expected to be setting off on her own to college 3,000 miles from a close-knit family in suburban San Diego.

Then Terps coach Cathy Reese saw the club national finals on TV and spotted Brittany. Watching the Cal Poly sophomore with the quickest first step she had ever seen score eight goals in a title game, Reese decided to double up on her Jones recruits.

"I called Brandi up and I said, 'Hey, does your sister want to come to Maryland?' "

"I was like, 'Ha ha,' " Brandi said. "Then I was like, 'Are you serious?' "

Brandi loved the idea and started working on her sister, who resisted at first.

"But I slowly broke her down," Brandi, 20, said with a laugh.

Said Brittany, 23: "It was crazy. She probably asked me two times, and I said, 'No. Not happening,' just because I loved Cal Poly. Lacrosse was fun there. It was competitive, but it wasn't Division I, so we just sat down and talked about it [with their parents] and finally I said, 'OK, this is really going to happen,' and it did."

So Brittany and Brandi set out together and are now integral parts of an undefeated Terps team that is ranked No. 2 in the country heading into tonight's home game against No. 7 Towson and has high hopes for a second straight appearance in the national semifinals.

They've combined for 23 goals, 19 assists and loads of work in the midfield. More than anything, it's just really hard to keep up with these Joneses. In a sport that moves blazingly fast, they are faster.

That gave them an edge in a game they didn't play until they got to Poway High School. They grew up with soccer and basketball, but when their older sister Janelle tried lacrosse, she persuaded them to try it, too.

"The game is so fast, and a lot of it is similar to soccer. I knew we were all very similar and really competitive and they're both extremely fast. I knew they would be good at it," said Janelle, who played on four championship teams at Cal Poly, two with Brittany.

Added Reese: "Both of these girls are such good athletes that they're good in everything they do. We'll sometimes play basketball in practice, and they're two of the best basketball players on our team. I think coming here they've learned more about lacrosse in terms of X's and O's and they picked up the stick skills and the game, but their overall fitness and athleticism has been able to give them a leg up."

When Poway coach Kate Robinson told Brandi she was good enough to play college lacrosse at the highest level, the 2007 San Diego Union-Tribune Player of the Year and Under Armour All-American was a bit skeptical. Sure the California girls were athletic, but she knew their skills didn't have the polish of the East Coast girls.

Robinson knew all about East Coast lacrosse. She grew up in it and played at Maryland. She knew what the top coaches were looking for, and Brandi had it. So did Brittany.

"They reminded me a lot of the players that Maryland recruits and that Northwestern does," she said. "They look for a good athlete who has a lot of speed, and they're like, 'We can teach you the rest.' [At Poway] we did a lot of stick work. That's all they needed. They were so fast, I was jealous."

Once in College Park, the sisters adjusted so quickly that they played a lot their first year and started last season.

"I think our speed eased us into the transition," Brandi said.

Added Brittany: "I like fast, and everyone's fast. In high school, a handful of us were really fast and we could get by without having to have good stick skills. That's kind of how it was for me at Cal Poly as well. Not that we didn't have any, but not quite what they have here. Once we got used to that, we improved our stick skills as we went."

Attacker Karri Ellen Johnson, Brandi's roommate, said it was hard to believe they had played only a few months each year.

"You'd think since they were out west and Maryland is such a hotbed of lacrosse that they'd be a step behind," Johnson said, "but their transition's great, they're both very athletic and they're very dynamic."

Despite their many similarities, each plays the game a little differently.

"We are different in how we move," Brandi said. "We're both quick, but Brittany's really quick in 360, so she can go forward, step back then to the side really quick changing directions. I'm more go hard, quick move, bye."

While Brandi loves to say bye to those defenders, she won't be so happy to say bye to her sister. Brittany is finishing her final year of eligibility, while Brandi has one more year with the Terps. After graduation, Brittany will return to San Diego, where she is lining up a job.

For three years, however, they enjoyed each other's company and leaned on each other while so far from home.

"Having an older sister who's really cautious and planned when I'm kind of the opposite, we balance each other out perfectly," Brandi said. "When we first got here, she was like, 'Did you look up your classes?' and I was like, "Oh, yeah' - that kind of stuff, like the morning of [the first class], I would have been writing a map on my hand, but she had a printed map with a highlighted track to where she's going. Our family's really close, so having a family member that I got to bring with me made it so much better."

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