November 21, 2009 11:51:00 PM
Brenda Frese knows what it''s like to mix and match to find the right rotation.
But while Mississippi State women''s basketball coach Sharon Fanning-Otis is juggling lineups with experienced players, Frese is working from the opposite end.
Frese, who is in her eighth season as coach at the University of Maryland, has one of the youngest lineups in Division I. Nine of the 11 players on the Terrapins'' roster are freshmen or sophomores, so Frese said it could take her a little time to find the best mix.
So far, things are working out quite well for Maryland, which will bring a 3-0 record into its game at 2 p.m. today against No. 25 Mississippi State at Humphrey Coliseum.
"It is really invigorating," said Frese, who is in her 11th season as a head coach. "A lot of it is the moment of the game. We used to be able to know (our lineups) through consistency patterns with All-Americans. With this team, we have some really talented players, but we haven''t had much time to see what they can do in pressure situations. We''re trying to find ways as a coaching staff to be successful."
Maryland remained unbeaten Thursday with an 84-67 victory against Old Dominion. Freshman forward Diandra Tchatchouang scored a career-high 22 points to lead the Terrapins, who also have victories against New Hampshire and North Carolina Central.
Maryland is also receiving votes (97) in this week''s Associated Press Top 25 poll. MSU entered the poll this week at No. 25, its first ranking since the 2003 season.
The roles are reversed in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll. Maryland is ranked No. 20, while MSU is also receiving votes (No. 31, 25).
Last year, Maryland defeated MSU 80-73 in the title game of the Terrapin Classic in College Park, Md. Kristi Toliver led Maryland with 24 points to help hand MSU its first loss of the season after an 11-0 start.
But Toliver, a first-team All-American, and second-team All-American Marissa Coleman are gone from that squad that went on to lose to Louisville in the Elite Eight.
Toliver and Coleman were freshman on the 2006 team that won the national title. They also were part of the all-time winningest class in Maryland history (126-19).
Reigning ACC Rookie of the Year Lynetta Kizer is Maryland''s only returning starter this season. The lack of experience is one reason members of the media that follow the Atlantic Coast Conference picked Maryland to finish fifth in the ACC preseason poll.
Those expectations don''t bother Frese, who won 16 and 19 games in two seasons at Ball State before moving on to the University of Minnesota. Frese earned AP Coach of the Year honors in 2002 for leading Minnesota to a 22-8 record and a trip to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Frese left Minnesota for Maryland, a program that has a proud tradition of women''s basketball but one that hadn''t had a lot of recent success. Frese helped change that with a tireless approach to recruiting that helped her land players like high school All-American Shay Doron. In all, 17 high school All-Americans have played for Frese at Maryland.
In addition, all seven of Frese''s recruiting classes have been ranked in the top 15, including six rated in the top 10 and three in the top five. The signings of Crystal Langhorne, Laura Harper, Jade Perry, and Ashleigh Newman were rated No. 2 in the country, while the class of Coleman and Toliver was ranked No. 4.
The Terrapins went 10-18 in 2003, but they went 18-13 the following season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. A 22-10 season followed in 2005 (another second-round NCAA tournament appearance) before the team went 34-4 in 2006 to win the national title.
The Terrapins have won 33 and 31 games the past two seasons.
"One things we have never been afraid of is hard work," Frese said. "I knew if we were able to turn it around with the tradition they had and the Final Fours they had played in that the fans were going to come around and that the attendance base would be great."
Maryland''s fans have watched an up-tempo style of play in Frese''s tenure. She said that style will continue this year with more of a defensive accent.
"We have a lot of length and athleticism," Frese said. "We also have a lot of size and length at the post positions and on the perimeter. I think our length will give people problems."
Sophomore Yemi Oyefuwa, a 6-foot-6 center, Essence Townsend, a 6-7 freshman forward, Tianna Hawkins, a 6-3 freshman, and Tchatchouang, a 6-3 freshman, give Maryland plenty of size on the wing and on the block.
Emery Wallace, a 6-1 forward, and Lori Bjork, a 5-11 guard who transferred from Illinois, are the only seniors on the roster.
Frese said the Terrapins have had spirited practices to start the season, which is creating plenty of competition for playing time. She said that competitiveness leads her to believe the team could have a different leading scorer each game.
That''s a luxury to have, but it also can create problems for a coach because she might not know what to expect on certain nights. Frese, though, believes her players have the talent and will mature to help the Terrapins remain a national contender.
"We see flashes of how good this team can be, and that''s what makes it so exciting," Frese said.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.