April 21, 2000
By Chris McManes
Special to the Prince George's Journal
The Maryland women's lacrosse team has won the past five national championship by recruiting and training some of the finest players in the country. But the top-ranked Terrapins have not limited their recruiting efforts to the United States.
They have dipped into the talent pool Down Under to stay on top.
The latest gem from Australia is junior attacker Jen Adams, who last year was named national Player of the Year and led Maryland to a scintillating 21-0 record. And by residing at or near the top of every major scoring category this season, Adams is on track to collect the honor again.
But the same unselfish attitude that Adams displays on the field prevents her from viewing herself as the best player in the nation. She said a better adjective might be "overrated."
"I've got an amazing team behind me and I think that really helps" said Adams, who has scored a point (goal or assist) in 42 straight games and was last year's NCAA Tournament MVP.
"I probably get a lot of credit for their hard work. That's undoubtedly probably been key to my improvement, and why I'm doing so well."
Georgetown Coach Kim Simons is reluctant to call Adams the nation's best player because she hasn't seen her play this year. But Simons will get a firsthand look this afternoon when the No. 5 Hoyas (8-2) visit Maryland (10-1) at Ludwig Field at 4 p.m.
"I'm sure she's one of the best," Simons said. "She's a very versatile player -- very dangerous in terms of scoring and also in assisting. And that's what I think makes a complete attack player, one who can score and assist.
"She's always a threat with the ball and is very elite in terms of skill and ability."
Adams, who set Terrapin season scoring records and led the nation with 71 goals and 117 points last year, is atop the national leaderboard again in 2000 with 77 points (7.0 ppg). She ranks third in goals per game (4.2) and third in assists per contest (2.8). Terrapin Coach Cindy Timchal says without hesitation that Adams is the finest women's lacrosse player in the nation.
"There's no doubt in my mind," Timchal said. "She's a very humble player, and that's probably why she'll never say it. I think for someone like her, just like Michael Jordan, she's always looking to improve her game. Maryland has many talented players, but I think she's the one player other teams fear the most because she is so deceptive. If you try to take this away from her or that away from her, she finds the opening.
"She's not real flashy. She looks kind of unassuming at times, but maybe that's the trick to her success -- to be deceptive like that."
Simons, whose Hoyas lost twice to the Terps in 1999, agreed that Adams can exploit any defensive weakness.
"I think she's one of the best at reading the defender," Simons said. "When the defense has over-committed or given her some space, she seems to make that an advantage for herself."
The 5-foot-8 Adams had a typical outing in Maryland's 18-7 victory over Brown (4-5) on Tuesday, scoring five goals and assisting on four more. She displayed her amazing stickwork with a backhanded goal from about six yards and later took a pass, dodged around and under a defender to score on a hard, high shot into the upper left corner.
In between, Adams scooped a groundball and started a fast break by finding junior Allison Comito with a long pass that glanced off a defender's stick. Comito, Maryland's second-leading scorer with 51 points on 34 goals and 17 assists, gathered the ball and scored to give the Terps a 9-2 advantage.
"Jen is the best player that I've seen this year," said Brown Coach Theresa Ingram, who played for Timchal before graduating from Maryland in 1994. "She's pretty hard to stop. She's tremendously unpredictable. She seems to be all over the field, getting involved defensively and offensively."
The Terps' Australian connection began in the early '90s when Sarah Forbes and Sascha Newmarch played in a tournament in College Park. Forbes, now a Maryland assistant coach, joined the Terrapins in 1994 and Newmarch followed a year later. Adams, ironically, also played in a tournament at Maryland in 1996. Two other Aussies, junior Courtney Hobbs and freshman Sonia Judd, play for the Terps this season.
"We just happen to have a nice connection there that allowed us to be kind of in line for a player like Jenny," Timchal said. "The other players had successful careers and good experiences here."
Maryland was the only school to recruit Adams, who lives in Marino in the state of South Australia. She and Judd both played for Brighton Academy in high school. Fans there have developed an understandably strong interest in the Terrapins.
"I'm sure it hasn't been easy when you're all the way across the world," Timchal said. "There's other challenges, you don't get to see your family all the time. But I think Jen's getting a lot out of it, as well as we're grateful that she made the decision to come here."
High-school lacrosse in South Australia is not as competitive as club lacrosse, Adams said, and is not played in the nation's colleges.
"We're competitive at the international level," said Adams, who is majoring in communications. "So while it's probably not as big or as popular (as it is in the U.S.), I know it's got a strong focus. The people who do play it are avid lacrosse fans."
Adams started at Maryland as a freshman in 1998 and scored 44 points (27 goals, 17 assists) to rank third on the team. The club went 18-3 in winning its fourth consecutive national title. Adams' school-record 117 points in 1999 included six games with five or more goals and a season-team-high five assists in a 23-5 pounding of Temple. The 1999 first-team All-American said she can't zero in on one outstanding performance.
"To win a national championship is an amazing feeling," Adams said. "Especially freshman year, but it's hard to pick out (one special game). There's a lot of great games and great moments. ... Our focus at Maryland is to play every game like a national championship. We try not to put too much emphasis on any one game."
Adams has six times this year scored eight or more points, including an 11-point outburst (five goals, six assists) against Harvard to tie the school single-game marks for points and assists. And she does all this despite being closely marked as the focus of each opponents' defense.
"She can handle the pressure well," Timchal said. "Every team plays their best defender on her, and she handles that well. She multi-talented, has great stick skills. She doesn't just score for us, she finds open players.
"She just has a real great awareness or knack of playing the game of lacrosse. She's just an exceptional player. She has a great concept of the game."
Adams, on pace to become the Terps' career leader in points, goals and assists, said her fondness for Maryland lacrosse allows the game to come easy to her.
"I think when you love what you're doing and you love the people that you're doing it with, it is really an easy thing to do," she said. "And I have that feeling. I definitely love Maryland lacrosse, I love playing with my teammates and I love what we're doing out here."
Said Timchal: "We're privileged that she's here all the way across the world playing for us. I think she's enjoying it as much as our team and our coaching staff enjoys having her here playing for the University of Maryland."