May 14, 1998
Maryland women's lacrosse Coach Cindy Timchal did not take a 14-hour airplane flight or trek through the dangerous outback when she first began recruiting Australian players. In fact the trip only took her as far as Byrd Stadium.
In 1992, the Australian National team was in the United States for one month to play a series of exhibitions. One of the games was at Byrd Stadium.
"The first thing that I noticed when I watched the Australian team was how good their stick skills were," Timchal said. "They were different from the players over here because they were using moulded-head sticks, while we were still using wooden sticks and not really focusing on stickwork as much. They were also very competitive, more so than most American players. Their coach told me his two youngest players were impressed with things here and wanted a chance to play here."
Those two 17-year-olds turned out to be Sarah Forbes, a three-time all-American midfielder and native of Perth, Australia, who graduated from Maryland last year, and Sascha Newmarch, a four-year starting midfielder who leads the team in scoring with 44 goals and 39 assists.
This weekend Newmarch and another native Australian, freshman attack Jen Adams, will try to help the Terrapins win their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament title. In one of Friday's semifinals, No. 3 Maryland (16-3) faces No. 2 North Carolina (15-2) at University of Baltimore-County Stadium at 8:30 p.m. Adams is third on the team with 25 goals and 15 assists.
Newmarch's and Forbes's success led the way for Adams. She is from Brighton in southern Australia, near Newmarch's hometown of West Lakes, and played defensive midfield before Timchal converted her to attack.
"I first heard of Maryland through Sascha and Sarah," said Adams. "I used to follow them through the internet when I was back home. People there know about American college lacrosse, Johns Hopkins and teams like that. Everyone wants me to bring them Maryland lacrosse T-shirts when I go home."
Not that they go home often. Newmarch almost apologetically said she "has pretty much lost touch" with a lot of her friends in Australia and recently accepted a full-time job in Washington. Adams said she will not be making the 14-hour flight to south Australia until Christmas.
However, Peter and Laureen Newmarch, Sascha's parents, will be in attendance at this weekend's semifinals for the fourth consecutive year. They have yet to see their daughter's team lose.
"I guess they are my good luck charms," said Newmarch.
Newmarch and Adams attribute a lot of their success on the field not to luck but to playing the sport competitively at an early age.
"I started playing when I was 8 years old," said Newmarch. "And there were some games when I was playing against 16- and 24-year-old players. That was a real learning experience."
Now colleges are learning that Australia may be distant, but it is a fertile lacrosse recruiting ground.
Loyola (Md.) starting midfielder Chelsea Morley, one of the fastest players in lacrosse, is from Melbourne, Australia. Hobart's leading scorer this season was Nathan Roost, a senior from Willeton in western Australia.
Despite the success of some programs recruiting in Australia, North Carolina Coach Jen Slingluff said she has no plans to pursue foreign players.
"I don't have the budget to fly around the world and recruit," Slingluff said. "Generally I will stay in the United States and recruit here. But if someone from Australia or someplace else wants to show up at my door I wouldn't turn them down."
One place Slingluff has recruited well is Maryland. Seventeen of North Carolina's 30 players are from Maryland, including former Mount Hebron High School teammates senior attack Lori Pasquantonio (26 goals, 18 assists) and junior attack Erin McGinnis (44 goals, 13 assists).
"It is weird to see so many players from the state of Maryland going on to colleges elsewhere," Pasquantonio said. "More than half our team is from Maryland. Someone asked me if I was worried about Maryland having home-field advantage [in the semifinals], and I said I thought we would have the advantage because we have so many players from that area."