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Terrapins Face Life Without Coleman, Toliver

RALEIGH, N.C. — As Maryland sophomore Marah Strickland sat inside a somber locker room following the Terrapins' NCAA South Region final loss to Louisville on Monday night, a familiar sense of sadness washed over her.

Last year as a freshman, she watched as seniors Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper — two starters on the 2006 national title team and two of the best players in program history — ended their careers with a bitter loss to Stanford in the region final. This year, she watched as seniors Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver — again, two starters on the 2006 title team and two of the best players in program history — wept openly at the end of the Terrapins' 77-60 loss to Louisville.

"It's really hard," Strickland said. "We lost in this same exact moment with Crystal and Harp last year, and we weren't able to send them off on a high note. Having two other great players in Kristi and Marissa, and once again not being able to bring them to the position that they deserve — that's the hardest thing you'll ever do."

Coleman and Toliver leave Maryland as the program's winningest senior class, with an overall record of 126-19. They lost only three games in four years at Comcast Center. Coleman ranks second on Maryland's career scoring (2,205 points) and rebounding (1,139) lists, behind Langhorne. Toliver is third in scoring (2,078 points) and tops in assists (751) and three-pointers made (300). Tuesday afternoon, Toliver was honored as a first-team all-American by the Associated Press; Coleman was named to the second team.

"What an amazing career the two of them have had," Coach Brenda Frese said. "I'll go into war with them anytime, because of what they mean to program and what they've been able to do for this team."

Maryland already had a rich basketball tradition when Coleman and Toliver arrived in the fall of 2005. At the time, the Terrapins had won more ACC tournament titles (eight) than any other school, though their previous one came in 1989, and had reached two Final Fours (1982 and 1989). During Coleman and Toliver's tenure, the Terrapins won a national title, an ACC regular season championship and an ACC tournament title.

"I think that's the reason we came to Maryland, to bring it back and have that tradition again, and to be the first to win a national championship," Toliver said. "It means a lot to have our team come to back-to-back Elite Eights.”

Now the challenge is for the Terrapins to sustain that success. Much as they did this year, when they integrated a new front court to replace Langhorne and Harper, they will have to find reliable scorers to replace Coleman and Toliver, who accounted for 46 percent of Maryland's points.

Three starters return: Strickland (who scored 15 points against Louisville), center Lynetta Kizer (the ACC freshman of the year) and forward Dee Liles (averaged 12 rebounds in the NCAA tournament). Redshirt freshmen guards Anjale Barrett and Kim Rodgers emerged in the postseason as reliable reserves with a scoring touch. Recruit Dara Taylor, a point guard from Delaware, is a McDonald's all-American.

"As much as a part of the team as [the seniors] were, as great as they were, we all had a role in this team," Rodgers said. "We're all going to have to step up, create a bigger role, continue to work hard and do whatever we can to keep this team at the level it's at."

That's the message that Coleman wants to leave with the younger Terrapins.

"There's still a lot of talent in this locker room, without Kristi and I. They are still capable of accomplishing great things," she said. "I don't want them to think that just because Kristi and I are graduating and are leaving, that they're still not a great team. So I'm definitely going to talk to all of them and let them know to continue this. They're still going to be a great basketball team without her and I, and they can accomplish just as much as Kristi and I, if not more."

By Camille Powell  |  March 31, 2009; 3:44 PM ET
Categories:  Women's basketball  
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Comments

It was a WONDERFUL season and I want to thank the Lady Terps for always being enjoyable and friendly. I took my daughter to a game, the players and coaches are all CLASS.

I am sure Brenda and the staff will be loading up again for another run shortly!

I do have a ? or 2 though. I sensed in Mike W. column that there was a rift between Brenda and the Louisville coach. Yet C. Powell's insider and article seems to say that there is no tension at all. Does anyone know which is more accurate?

Also - Mike W indicated that Brenda is looked upon by the legends (P Summit & JACKA$$ Geno) as a snooty upstart - any validity to that too?

Posted by: Stevida | March 31, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Walz was the real X's and O's strategist of that title team.

He knew what the Terps were going to do and he stopped every last bit of it ... leaving Maryland (as usual) unable to adapt because they have no Plan B.

Or defense.

Posted by: redskinsfreak | March 31, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

I am BIG Lady Terps fan.

First things first, thank you Marissa Coleman, and Kristi Tolliver for all that you have done for the University of Maryland Women's basketball program. We all are indebted to your contributions, and are proud of your individual and team's collective accomplishments.

Now, I will be candid the game against Louisville left me wanting. It was frustrating as a fan to see how impotent the offense was with Kristi and Marissa struggling offensively.

I HONESTLY hope Coach Frese uses all her charm to recruit some awesome talent to fill in for Kristi and Marissa.

And, here's a shout out to the other members of the team ... please ... please take this loss to heart. Shape up and get fitter, stay focused and get mentally tough, and improve your game both offensively as well as defensively.

Please do give me something to cheer -- especially, out here on the West coast. I want to be able to wear my Terp sweatshirt with pride at either the Cal Bear or the Stanford Cardinal games.

Posted by: mi6-007 | March 31, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

I agree with redskinsfreak. Walz was the real tactical genius behind that national championship team. He completely outcoached Frese and her assistants.

And yes, I think some sort of rift occurred between Walz and Frese, although we may never find out the real story.

Posted by: imterpsfan2 | March 31, 2009 11:49 PM | Report abuse

Personalities seem always to get primary attention but to no positive end. Can the Terp's loss be attributed primarily to Frese and Walz's coaching or to fatigue and/or chance events that govern the mindsets of ten to fifteen players? There are a lot of 'ifs' in dissecting the game's outcome but clearly Louisville was the better team last Tuesday. It's been a terrific season for the Lady Terps and we should be glad of it.

Posted by: AncientTerp | April 1, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Thanks to our lady Terrapins for a great year. Marissa and Kristi - congratulations on wonderful college careers. Look at what you've accomplished - both on and off the court. You two are the best - talented, poised players as well as class acts, there's just nobody better.

This may be the end of your college days, but you know you'll always be Terps - we love you and will miss you, but will be watching you in the future.

Go Terps!

Posted by: bohara2 | April 1, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Kristi and Marissa, for the privilege of watching you the last four years. Your senior year, in particular, is one you should be proud of. You were true leaders in the best sense of the word and will be sorely missed.

There's been a lot of criticism of Coach Frese and the team's performance on Monday. But let's remember that the team was 31-5 this season. Frese must be doing something right with her coaching to win more than 30 games in a season!

Posted by: krae-kartoons | April 1, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

First of all, I want to say congrats to the entire Lady Terps for a great season. ACC Champs!! Marissa and Kristi, you have been fantastic players over the last 4 years and have brought the program back to being a premiere lady's baskeball program. The loss to Louisville was tough...but don't forget all you have accomplished. As a fan, I just want to say thank you. You guys have been fun to watch and will be missed! I can only hope at least one of you will get drafted by the Mystics!

Posted by: sterps09 | April 1, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I've never been so deeply involved emotionally with a team before or two players. I loved watching you guys for four years. Kristi, you are the best point guard in the nation skills wise. I hope you can become emotionally stronger in order to show just how good you are in the WNBA! I hated that loss more than anything but Frese bring the pain to Walz next year..he obviously thinks he's something special but Maryland is a way better team than Louisville.

Posted by: akayaker_2000 | April 1, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

One other thing...I don't think this team realizes what they've done for the women's game. I have never seen such quick awesome passing and quality. It was so obvious all the angles are understood by Toliver. Uconn doesn't even have it, you're the only team that did.

Posted by: akayaker_2000 | April 1, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Tolliver is a talented player but hardly the best point guard in the country. She hits some SICK shots from time to time, but she's nowhere near Rene Montgomery status. Maryland isn't in St. Louis because it doesn't play DEFENSE. Many around womens college basketball know that, Walz even told his team the same thing.

Posted by: caphcky | April 2, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

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