Meeting for the first time
Reese, Adams put friendship aside as teams face off
When Maryland women's lacrosse head coach Cathy Reese's five-year-old son Brody found out the Terrapins would be facing Loyola in the NCAA Division I quarterfinals on Saturday, he had a great solution to a sticky situation. Brody figured if Maryland and Loyola tied, both teams could go to the championship round.
Unfortunately, that's not the way it works, although Reese and Loyola head coach Jen Adams might prefer the little guy's suggestion.
Reese and Adams were teammates on Maryland's 1998 NCAA title team, they are partners in the camp business and coached together at Denver and Maryland … they are the best of friends. But on Saturday, the friends will be foes as their teams face each other for the first time since Adams took over the Greyhounds' program.
"Cathy is one of my best friends … I consider her to be family," Adams said. "We knew at some point this would come. It's exciting for us because we are both in the final eight teams and pushing to make it to a final four. We are both going to try to win, but either way I've got someone to cheer for at the final four."
"We constantly encourage each other during the season - we want to see her do well, and she wants to see us do well," Reese said.
Reese served as an assistant coach on Maryland's staff for the remaining three years of Adams' career, including 2001, when Adams became the Terrapins' first Tewaaraton Award winner. When Reese took the reins of a growing Denver program in 2004, she hired Adams as an assistant. When Reese returned to her alma mater to become head coach in 2007, Adams was her choice as associate head coach.
"She took me under her wing," Adams said. "We became really close in school, and afterwards we formed a strong friendship. I lived with them in Denver for a while when we coaching there. I watched their (seven-year-old) son Riley grow up … he's my little man. We're really close, and it is something special that we get to play this game rather than something daunting or frightening."
There were a lot of sleepless nights for Adams when she was offered the head coach position at Loyola after the 2008 season, but it was Reese knew she was ready.
"I was in the position I wanted to be as a coach (at Maryland), and really happy where I was," Adams said. "It was Cathy who told me I was ready to make that move, and I would make a great head coach. Hearing that she thought I was ready and it was something I could be successful at was really all the push I needed. I know that gave me a lot of confidence coming to Loyola. I think the biggest thing that I knew she had my back, no matter what I was doing or who I was coaching."
The year before Adams arrived at Loyola, the Greyhounds had struggled, posting a 6-10 mark in 2008. Adams has quickly turned that around, notching winning seasons in all four years of her tenure and advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals in each of the last two seasons.
"She's built that program back up, and has done an outstanding job and I'm super proud of her," Reese said. "I know how hard it was initially when she left Maryland to take over Loyola's program."
Both Reese and Adams know both teams will be prepared and well-coached on Saturday.
"Cathy and I play a similar style of lacrosse," Adams said. "We have a big transition game, we play tough defense and are athletic and dynamic. It should be interesting and exciting to watch us match-up."
Reese led the Terps to the 2010 NCAA title, while last year's squad fell to Northwestern in the national championship game. Adams will be doing her best to lead the Greyhounds to their first national semifinal appearance since 1997.
"She'll expect that her student-athletes are competing hard all the time," Reese said. "She's shown that by her program's success. Her girls are ready to play."
The two friends have talked on the phone in the week leading up to the big showdown, but have managed to keep the conversation fun and light-hearted. They know that no matter who wins or loses, they will be cheering for the other in the semifinals.
"I've joked that the loser is going to have a lot more work to do (at our camp) this summer," Adams said. "I just hope that's not me."
Maryland and Loyola face off on May 19 at 12 p.m. ET, in College Park, Md. The winner advances to the NCAA semifinals to be held on May 25 and 27 in Stony Brook, N.Y.