There was no better fit for the University of Maryland women's basketball program than head coach Brenda Frese. The 2002 Associated Press (AP) National Coach of the Year arrived in College Park with great expectations and has not disappointed. Reviving a once-prominent women's basketball program back to the national stage, her high work rate and positive attitude has resulted in 11-straight top-15 recruiting classes, three Final Fours, five conference titles and a National Championship in 2006. Frese has balanced that strong work ethic with a fun and family-friendly environment, also becoming a wife and a mother of twin boys, giving birth to them in the midst of one of the most successful seasons in the program's history. With the birth of her twins in February of 2008, she becomes one of only six coaches to win a national championship and be a parent.
Since her first season at the helm when the team won just 10 games, Frese has guided Maryland to a National Championship in 2006, 12 winning seasons, 11-straight 20-win seasons, five 30-win campaigns and 11 trips to the NCAA Tournament. In 2006-07, Maryland also received its first-ever No. 1 preseason national ranking, remaining in the top spot in the polls for 10-consecutive weeks.
"This has been an incredible journey and winning the national championship in 2006 was just the beginning," Frese said. "My coaching staff and I had the belief we could win a national championship here at Maryland. With all the administrative support, the first-class facilities - we knew we could build something great. We did not set any timetables, but what we have achieved so far ... it's beyond expectations."
Former Athletics Director Deborah A. Yow courted the 2002 AP National Coach of the Year because of Frese's reputation for making amazing turnarounds and her relentless work ethic in recruiting. Described as dynamic, overachieving, determined and enthusiastic, the 43-year old coach is one of college basketball's rising stars. Standing atop the podium in Boston in 2006, Frese became the fifth-youngest coach (age 35) in NCAA history to win a national title and only the ninth to win in her first trip to the Final Four.
Despite claiming eight Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Tournament titles prior to her arrival, Maryland advanced to new heights when Frese stepped on the scene. In her second season, she led the Terrapins to a tie for third place in the ACC standings - its highest finish since 1996-97. She's led Maryland to nine top-three league finishes in her 13 years.
Frese has built the team's success around recruiting, hard work and a positive atmosphere. The instant she arrived on campus, she determinedly worked the recruiting trails in an effort to reclaim the elite status Maryland once had in the 1980s. Success came quickly and early. Before she even coached a game in the newly-constructed XFINITY Center, she received commitments from a pair of high school All-Americans, including Shay Doron, who went on to become a three-time All-ACC pick and a Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) Draft selection. In all, 27 high school All-Americans have donned a Maryland uniform under Frese's reign.
Twelve of Frese's recruiting classes have been ranked in the top-15, including 11 rated in the top-10 and five in the top five. The landmark signings of Crystal Langhorne, Laura Harper, Jade Perry and Ashleigh Newman were rated No. 2 in the country, while the class of Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver was ranked No. 4 - the core of the Terps' national championship team. Her 2010 batch of Terrapins included four high school All-Americans and a No. 2 national ranking.
Frese's recruiting classes have lived up to their billing and her pupils have earned numerous accolades. The first Terp in 17 years to garner All-American nods in 2006, Langhorne was a three-time AP and United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) All-American, the program's first multiple All-American. She was selected a Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) All-American in 2007, the first in school history since 1989, and then again received the accolade in 2008. Most recently, Alyssa Thomas earned All-American nods from the WBCA, USBWA and First Team honors from the AP in 2012. Thomas was the first sophomore in school history to be named a WBCA All-American and First Team AP All-American and the first to be a three-time All-American.
Toliver repeated Langhorne's AP, WBCA and USBWA All-American "trifecta" in 2008. The legendary point guard, however, became the first Terp in school history to be named to the AP's All-America First Team as a senior in 2009 - to go along with another set of WBCA and USBWA All-American laurels. Coleman, Toliver's classmate, also earned AP, WBCA and USBWA All-American honors at the conclusion of her illustrious senior campaign in 2009.
Frese's players have also received numerous conference honors. Most recently, Alyssa Thomas became just the second underclassman ever to be named ACC Player of the Year in March 2012. She is the first underclassman in league history to be named Player of the Year and Tournament MVP in the same season. Thomas was just the second player in league history to be named ACC Player of the Year in three straight years (2012, 2013, 2014), following Duke's Alana Beard.. In her final season, Langhorne was selected the ACC's Player of the Year, the first Terp to win the award in nearly 20 years. Toliver followed suit at the end of her senior year, winning the ACC's top-player honor in 2009 - the third Terp ever to win the award. In 2005, Langhorne became the program's first ACC Rookie of the Year since 1991. Coleman followed in her footsteps by nabbing the honor during the Terps' championship campaign in 2006. Center Lynetta Kizer and forward Alyssa Thomas made it four Terps in six years to be named the league's top freshman when they won in 2009 and 2011.
In all, Terps have received 29 All-ACC citations in Frese's 12 years, including a school-record four in 2008 when Langhorne, Coleman, Toliver and Harper were selected and in 2012 when Thomas, Tianna Hawkins, Laurin Mincy and Lynetta Kizer were honored. Eight Terps have been First Team conference selections 13 times in Frese's tenure. Langhorne became Maryland's first three-time, first team all-conference selection and the first to be named All-ACC four times. Thomas followed with both. Coleman joined Langhorne as the lone Terps to ever be selected to an All-ACC team four times, stamping her three second-team honors with a first-team selection in 2009. In fact, of Maryland's five players all-time to be selected All-ACC three times or more, four of them were recruited by Frese (Doron, Langhorne, Coleman, Toliver).
Doron was the first freshman in school history to be named All-ACC in 2004 (third team). Langhorne was the highest-honored freshman in the program, garnering second team honors in 2005. In total, nine of Frese's players have been named to the ACC All-Freshman Team, most recently by Diandra Tchatchouang.
Numerous Terps have also garnered national recognition under Frese. Toliver became the first Terrapin to earn the highest point guard honor in the country, winning the Nancy Leiberman Award in 2008, after being a finalist the previous year. Several have earned spots on national player of the year candidate lists, making history in the fall of 2006. That year, for the first time ever, four players from the same team were selected preseason candidates for the WBCA's prestigious Wade Trophy when Doron, Coleman, Langhorne and Toliver were put on the Watch List. All five starters were tabbed preseason honorees for the Naismith Award, also a first in the history of the award.
Frese has seen success in each of her three stops in 15 seasons as a head coach and has made amazing turnarounds her calling card. She captured her 300th-career victory on the road against Virginia in 2012, boasting a 397-134 overall record (.748) with 15 winning seasons including five 30-win campaigns. Her Maryland squads have posted a 340-104 (.766) mark in 13 years, advancing to at least the second round of the tournament in 11 of the last 12 years, including seven Sweet Sixteens, six Elite Eights and three Final Fours.
She has led her teams to 12 NCAA Tournament appearances, 11 at Maryland. In NCAA play, Frese has posted a record of 30-11 (.732) and made it to at least the second round in each tournament.
Maryland has rewritten several records over the last 10 seasons. In 2014-15, the Terrapins went 18-0 in conference play in their first season in the Big Ten. They were just the third team in history to go undefeated in Big Ten play. They won 28-straight games from Dec. 3, 2014 through March 30, 2015 to set a new school record. In 2007-08, the Terps became the first team in NCAA history to have four active players with at least 1,000 points on the same roster. That year, school records were broken for most home wins (21), which is also believed to be an NCAA record. The team opened the 2006-07 campaign winning 18-straight games, setting the program record for best start to a season. Maryland ended the 2008-09 campaign having won a school-record 36-straight home games, thanks to undefeated home marks in two successive seasons, and 40-consecutive non-conference games at the XFINITY Center. In the 2009-10 season the Terrapins extended that streak to 48, a Maryland basketball record for either program.
In 2005-06, the team's 34 wins set a school record, shattering the previous mark of 29. The championship squad also set new standards for highest road winning percentage (.900), points (3,166), field goal attempts (2,363), 3-point field goals (216), 3-point attempts (540), free throws (690), free throw attempts (924), team free throw percentage (.747), rebounds (1,720) and blocked shots (195).
Numerous individual records have also fallen since her recruits began donning a Terrapin uniform. Among the most notable are the career scoring and rebounding records, which Thomas shattered in her four year career. She is the all-time leading scorer (2,356) and rebounder (1,235). She also broke the school record in double-doubles (66) set by Langhorne, who also previously held the scoring and rebounding records. Frese recruits own five of the top-six career scoring marks in Maryland history, including Nos. 1-3 in Langhorne, Coleman and Toliver - the only three players in Terp annals with 2,000-plus points apiece.
In the last eight years, Maryland has been crowned an NCAA statistical champion seven times. The Terrapins posted the nation's best rebounding margin in 2006 (+11.9) and 2007 (+14.3) and second-best in 2012 (+12.9) and 2013 (+13.7). Also in 2006, the Terps shot 40.0 percent from 3-point range, tops in the country, while winning the most games of any team that year (34). In 2007, the team's 18.3 assists-per-game average was the best in the country, it owned the best shooting accuracy at 49.5 percent in 2008 and, in 2009, it once again claimed the top 3-point shooting mark in the nation (40.1 percent).
Maryland has been one of the most prolific scoring teams in the NCAA over four of the last five years, ranking No. 2 in scoring average in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and No. 3 in 2009. It has also ranked in the top-15 in the nation in scoring margin and field goal percentage during that four-year span (and in blocked shots in three of the last five years). The Terrapins were third in the country in field goal percentage (.471) in 2013.
Maryland's rise into the upper-echelon of, not only the ACC, but in the country, has bolstered the excitement surrounding the team. Over the last 10 years, the program has ranked in the top-25 in the nation in attendance, including top-10 rankings in four of the last seven seasons. In 2007, Maryland recorded the nation's largest one-season improvement in home attendance, averaging 9,533 fans in 16 games, almost double the average from the previous season (4,183) - with more than 150,000 people making their way through the Comcast Center turnstiles, a school-record. By the end of the '07 campaign, the Terps were sixth in the nation in average attendance and fourth in overall attendance, as 241,280 spectators filled the stands at home and on the road to watch the Terps play in 34 games. In 2008, Maryland hosted over 160,000 fans in 21 games and was ranked eighth in the nation in average attendance that year, followed by a No. 6 ranking in 2009 (133,336 in 15 games).
One of the highlights of the 2006-07 campaign was the announcement of two sellout games in XFINITY Center, the first- and second-ever in the young facility. The stands were filled to capacity when the Terps hosted North Carolina on Jan. 28, 2007, breaking the ACC's single-game record, the first women's basketball sellout since 1992. The record was matched in the regular-season finale on Feb. 18, 2007, when Duke came to College Park.
In the classroom, the Terps have also been all-star students. Seventeen of Frese's Terps have been named to the Conference All-Academic Teams, while three, Lori Bjork, Doron and Langhorne have received Academic All-American nods by ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA. In 2015, Malina Howard earned the Elite 89 Award, which is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s championships.
2005-06: A Special Season
Stacked with six former high school All-Americans on the roster, the Terrapins were ranked in the preseason poll for the second-straight year, breaking the top-10 in November for the first time since 1993. Maryland climbed to as high as No. 4 in the national polls until its regular-season meeting with then-No. 1 North Carolina on Feb. 9. Considered the underdogs throughout the season, the Terrapins went into a packed Carmichael Auditorium and stunned the Carolina fans, handing the Tar Heels their first loss of the season in overtime, 98-95.
That evening, Frese uttered, "Our program took a step forward tonight."
It certainly had. Inching up to No. 3 in the polls, the first top-three ranking in 13 years, the Terrapins remained there until winning the national championship and becoming the undisputed No. 1 team in the nation, earning the top spot in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll for the first time in school history.
The Terps overcame numerous hurdles en route to being crowned national champions. Playing in the toughest conference in the nation, Maryland's 12-2 record was good enough to tie for second in the ACC standings, the best finish since 1993 and the most conference wins since that same year. Ranked in the top three and logging wins over five ranked opponents heading into the ACC Tournament, the Terrapins faced a tough Duke squad in the ACC Tournament semifinals while confronting a 14-game losing streak to the Blue Devils. The Terps broke that streak by toppling second-ranked Duke to earn a spot in the championship game for the first time in 13 years.
Maryland earned its highest NCAA seed in 14 years, garnering the No. 2 seed in the Albuquerque Regional, which improved its seeding for the third-straight year. Reaching the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1992, the Terrapins easily knocked off defending champion Baylor. In the Elite Eight, playing for a chance to reach the Final Four for the first time in Frese's career and the program's first since 1989, the team was struck with a stomach flu, which affected nearly half the players and staff. Despite their struggles, Frese, who had also come down with the sickness, rallied her troops. A hard-fought game to the end, the contest was forced into overtime against a well-coached Utah squad. Riding a wave of confidence from its previous overtime experience that season, Maryland went on to punch its ticket to the Final Four in Boston.
Maryland would face familiar foes in Boston. For the first time in the history of the NCAA, three teams from the same conference had reached the Final Four. The Terps had overall top-seed North Carolina as their first challenger in the national semifinals. The Terrapins pulled away from UNC, 81-70, knocking off the nation's No. 1-ranked team for the second time of the season - a first in school history - while handing the Tar Heels their only two losses of the season.
In the championship game, Maryland found itself down 13 points in the second half to another No. 1 seed, Duke, who had upended the Terps in 14 of the previous 15 meetings between the rivals. The young Terrapins, however, charged back in the final 15 minutes to post the second-largest deficit overcome in finals history. Toliver hit one of the biggest shots in tournament annals, a 3-pointer over Duke's 6-foot-7 center Alison Bales to send the game into overtime.
The Terrapins' brimming confidence from previous extra session success catapulted them to the national championship with a 78-75 victory.
Sophomore Laura Harper, who missed two-thirds of the previous season because of an Achilles' tendon tear, was voted the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player, while Toliver was named to the all-tournament team.
Maryland's 34 victories were the most in the country and the most in school history. Its four losses were to teams ranked No. 1 at some point during the season. Playing the season with "seven starters," the second-ranked offense in the nation had numerous weapons as five players on the team averaged double figures. Langhorne was an AP and USBWA All-American, while earning first team All-ACC honors. Coleman, who tied Langhorne's school record of five ACC Rookie of the Week selections, was the conference's Rookie of the Year. She was also the only conference freshman to be named All-ACC, earning a spot on the second team, along with Doron.
One of the most astonishing aspects of the season was the Terrapins' perfect record in a school-record six overtime games, none of which were at home. Maryland rode the mantra "Overtime is Our Time" into the final game of the season, capturing the program's first national title in overtime.
Laying the Foundation
The Terrapins advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight year and were ranked No. 24 in the season's final Coaches poll, the first time the Terps had appeared in the final rankings since 1992-93.
Doron was selected Kodak/WBCA Region II All-American, the first Terrapin to earn the honor since 1993, and was also tabbed a first team All-ACC performer. Langhorne earned the ACC's Rookie of the Year honor - the first for a Terp in 14 years - and was also voted second team All-ACC.
In 2003-04, just her second season at the helm of the Terrapins, Frese took Maryland to an unexpected run to the second round of the NCAA Tournament - collecting the program's first tournament victory in 12 years.
In what was supposed to be the second year of the rebuilding process, Frese instilled confidence into a Maryland squad that went 4-12 in ACC play the season before and was depending on players with limited experience, including two-highly touted recruits in Doron and Kalika France. The Terrapins surprised all prognosticators, placing in a tie for third after being picked eighth in the preseason poll. Maryland went 18-13 for its first winning season in four years. In ACC play, the Terps posted an 8-8 mark, doubling their conference win total from each of the previous two seasons and their best showing in the standings since the 1996-97 campaign. Collecting 18 wins overall, the most since 1996-97, Maryland was rewarded with an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since 2000-01 and was the only 12th seed to advance to the second round.
The long list of accomplishments that season included reaching the ACC Semifinals for the first time since 1998, averaging a 12.3 margin of victory in conference games and sweeping Wake Forest and Clemson for its first sweep of any ACC squad in three years.
Frese's first season at the Terps' helm was the rebuilding year it was expected to be. With a roster short on depth but high on effort, she led Maryland to a 10-18 record with narrow losses at several junctures. Frese's Terps also tallied multiple positive steps in her first year including: breaking 100 points in a game for the first time since Dec. 28, 1993, winning their first ACC road game since Feb. 19, 2001, drawing a crowd of 5,078 - at the time the largest at a Maryland women's basketball game since Feb. 24, 1996 - and claiming their first win from Florida State since the 1995-96 campaign.
Learning the Ropes
Frese's revitalization of the Minnesota program rocked the Big Ten establishment, with her team's 10-win improvement in conference play marking the biggest one-year improvement in Big Ten history. Moreover, the 11 Big Ten wins were three more than Minnesota totaled in the previous six seasons combined. The Golden Gophers had also achieved their highest ranking in school history to that point when Minnesota was listed 14th in the AP Top-25 Poll in mid-February and a No. 18 national ranking in the final regular season poll. Undoubtedly, Frese had arrived.
Frese started her head coaching career during the 1999-2000 season at Ball State, a program that had gone 66-169 in the nine seasons prior to her arrival. She guided the Cardinals to a 16-13 showing in 2000 and garnered Coach of the Year honors in the Mid-American Conference. Frese led Ball State to a then-school best 19-9 mark in 2000-01 to capture just the school's second back-to-back winning seasons in Ball State history. In her final year at BSU, the 2000-01 team received votes in the AP poll, climbing as high as No. 28 in the country.
Frese's enthusiasm has been contagious for the fans of her teams as evidenced by the significant increase in support at both Minnesota and Ball State under her leadership. Buoyed by the best start (9-1) in school history, the Golden Gophers finished the season ranked 19th nationally in home attendance average (4,360), including an average of 8,828 fans during the second half of the campaign when the team moved to Williams Arena from the Sports Pavilion. The Gophers attracted the top four crowds in school history, including a record attendance of 12,142 vs. Michigan State and a crowd of 11,389 vs. Indiana. Frese's 2000-01 Ball State team posted a 10-2 home record and set a single-season home attendance record.
She launched her Division I coaching career in 1994 as an assistant coach at Kent State University, helping the Golden Flashes to records of 20-8 (1994) and 17-10 (1995) during her two years there. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native then joined Bill Fennelly's staff at Iowa State as the Cyclones' recruiting coordinator, where she assisted in another impressive turnaround, helping ISU to three NCAA Tournament appearances in four years. All told, the Cyclones posted a composite record of 84-38 with Frese as an assistant, including a 17-10 record in 1995-96 when Iowa State recorded the biggest one-season turnaround in school history. In 1997, the Cyclones made their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament, a feat they duplicated in 1998 and 1999 with identical 25-8 records. In 1999, Iowa State was ranked among the nation's Top-25 for the entire season and came within one victory of reaching the Final Four.
During her stay at Iowa State, her 1998-99 recruiting class was ranked among the nation's top-10. The Cyclones also enjoyed tremendous success at the gate, drawing a record crowd of 12,337 vs. Santa Clara in the first round of an NCAA Tournament game played in Ames, Iowa, to help rewrite Iowa State's single-season attendance mark.
Frese is a 1993 graduate of the University of Arizona, where she was a three-year letterwinner for the Wildcats as a guard. When injuries sidelined her during her senior season, she joined the Pima Community College coaching staff in Tucson, Ariz., as an assistant coach in charge of recruiting and scouting. Along with her bachelor's degree in communications from Arizona in 1993, she also earned a master's degree in athletic administration from Kent State in 1995.
Frese has found success in her personal life as well, marrying husband Mark Thomas on August 20, 2005. The couple, who reside in Howard County, Md., welcomed their first children, twin boys Markus and Tyler, on Feb. 17, 2008.
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