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."
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