Is there anything more challenging for a college student than freshman year?  What if the campus is over 10,000 miles from your family and friends?  And what if, just for good measure, you are a student-athlete joining a three-time defending national championship team?

If you are South Australia native Jen Adams, you handle the challenge by helping Maryland to four more Division I national titles, complete your record-setting career with the most total points scored in women’s lacrosse history, win the inaugural Tewaaraton Award, as well as two Honda/Broderick Awards and Academic all-America honors. 

Loyola (Md.) 10, Penn 9
Maryland 17, Loyola (Md.) 11
Championship History

“I think my biggest adjustment came from being so far from home,” recalled Adams, who finished her fourth season as women’s lacrosse coach for Loyola (Md.). “I didn’t have a cell phone in college, so getting in touch with family and friends was difficult. Just knowing I couldn’t jump in a car and drive home for a hug from Mum always weighed heavily on me.”

It was while Adams was training with the Australian U19 team at Maryland in the mid-1990s that she first was noticed by the Terp coaching staff and later was offered the chance to play in the States. “I was pretty comfortable at home and was deeply entrenched with my club lacrosse team,” Adams said. “In the end, my family convinced me I should come over and give it a try so that I would never have any regrets.  That was the best advice I have ever been given.”

Adams credits her Terrapin teammates for getting her through that first year in the spring of 1998. “Life was very different and chaotic at first,” Adams said. “But my teammates were incredible and I would never have gotten through college without them and my adopted families.”

Maryland won a fourth consecutive NCAA title in the spring of 1998, with a modest contribution from Adams (27 goals and 17 assists), but no one could have imagined the national impact the native of Adelaide would make on the sport over the rest of her college career.

Led by Adams, the Terps won three more titles (for a total of seven in a row), going a combined 65-1 during that period, and Adams led the nation in goals scored, assists and total points each year. She was named Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) Player-of the Year all three years, and also was named to the NCAA’s 25th Anniversary Team in 2006. It was after her senior season that Adams became the first female winner of the Tewaaraton Award, the lacrosse equivalent of football’s Heisman.

There’s no way Adams can rate those four titles, but the last one does hold great memories. “It was special because it marked the last time I stepped onto the field in a Maryland uniform,” Adams said. “I have that final game on DVD (a 14-13 overtime win against Georgetown) but I refuse to watch it. I still remember it so clearly and I don’t want to see any different version than the way it runs in my own head.”

Despite the pressures of playing for the top-ranked team in her sport, Adams also excelled as a student, twice winning the Honda/Broderick Award for excellence both in the classroom and on the field, as well as being named to the CoSIDA Academic all-America first team her senior year.

“I think being a student-athlete was a perfect fit for me,” Adams said. “I worked well having structure and it had a positive effect on my time management. I created my own major at Maryland ([ndividual Studies -- Sports Marketing] and while that meant a lot more work, it also meant I was doing something I enjoyed and was very passionate about.”

Adams expected to continue working in sports after graduation, but was adamant that it would not be as a coach. “That was until the day I graduated, when I knew I couldn’t stay away from the lacrosse field,” says Adams. “I just want to see our sport grow and reach as many young girls, in as many states, in as many countries, as possible.”

Originally published in the Spring 2010 edition of Champion Magazine.