October 15, 2012

Hall of Fame Week: The Immortals of Maryland

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

Jen Adams, now the head coach at Loyola (Md.), dazzled the women's lacrosse world as a player at Maryland, setting every scoring record for the Terps and leading them to an 83-4 record in four seasons. She won the sport's first Tewaaraton Award in 2001.
© Brian Schneider

One of the greatest National Hall of Fame classes of all-time will be inducted this Saturday night at the Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley, Md. The 2012 induction class is comprised of Jen Adams, Roy Colsey, Brian Dougherty, Missy Foote, Kelly Amonte Hiller, Jesse Hubbard, Tim Nelson and Cindy Timchal. Each will take their place among the game's greatest at a black-tie optional, US Lacrosse event. Tickets are available here for Saturday and a Friday golf outing.

Check back to LaxMagazine.com all this week as we celebrate the eight inductees. Today: The Immortals of Maryland.

They are linked as important characters from a shining era in the story of University of Maryland lacrosse.

And as Cindy Timchal, Jen Adams, Kelly Amonte Hiller and Brian Dougherty anticipate their inductions into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame – giving Maryland a formidable presence among the eight inductees – the what-ifs sometimes creep into their memories.

What if Timchal had remained the coach at Northwestern, possibly building the Wildcats into a national power, instead of putting a charge into College Park and producing an astounding eight NCAA titles between 1991 and 2001?

What if Amonte Hiller, a self-described homebody growing up in Boston, had decided not to venture out of New England to play for Maryland in 1992 and spark an unprecedented run of excellence by the Terrapins? What if Adams in 1997 had decided to stay home in Australia, rather than travel halfway around the world and reward the Terps by becoming the most decorated player in NCAA history?

And what if Dougherty, the Philadelphia kid who was lightly recruited as a high school goalie in the early 1990s and is now considered among the greatest ever to guard a net, had not been pursued aggressively by former Maryland coach Dick Edell?

Adams, the 2001 Maryland graduate and the leader of four consecutive NCAA championship teams, said she often reflects on her teenaged decision to pull up stakes in Brighton, South Australia.

"For Cindy to give me a chance to come over to the states is still mind-blowing to me. I wasn't getting [recruiting] calls from any other colleges here," said Adams, who recalled an early-morning phone chat with then-Maryland assistant Gary Gait that spurred her onto College Park. He and Timchal had first seen Adams, at age 16, playing with an Australian under-19 team at an East Coast summer tournament.

"There was a lot of indecision on my part about wanting to come here, then wanting to go back home after I'd gotten to Maryland," Adams said. "I look back on it like a powder-keg event in my life. I came to the right program with the right coaches and the right teammates at the right time. To be part of that was transformational for me. I think about that all of the time. What if I hadn't caught Cindy's and Gary's eye?"

Adams, now the head coach at Loyola (Md.) University, caught the eyes of the women's lacrosse world. With her dazzling stick and finishing skills as an attacker, Adams set every scoring record at Maryland, led the Terps to an 83-4 record over four seasons, won three national player of the year awards and was the sport's first Tewaaraton Award winner in 2001.

That year, Adams wound up a stellar career by pushing Maryland to a 23-0 record and its seventh straight NCAA crown. Adams' 445 career points still stand as an NCAA record, and her 267 career goals remain a Maryland record. She went on to lead Australia in its 2005 upset of host Team USA at the 2005 World Cup in Annapolis, Md.

Before Adams came along, the rest of Maryland's 2012 Hall of Fame contingent literally crossed paths in College Park.

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Amonte Hiller, who has gone on to achieve Timchal-like coaching stardom by guiding Northwestern to seven NCAA titles in the past 11 seasons, was a superb midfielder at Maryland from 1993-96. As a player, she lost two NCAA title games before winning in her last two tries and ranks second in Maryland history (behind Adams) in career points (319) and assists (132). A three-time All-American, Amonte Hiller was so versatile she won a national defensive player of the year award in 1995 and offensive player of the year in 1996. She played on three U.S. World Cup teams, winning gold medals with Team USA in 1997 and 2001.

Dougherty, also a 1996 graduate, was voted the nation's top goalie in his last two seasons and its top player as a junior. He ranks second in Maryland history with 658 career saves, including a single-season school record 227 in 1995.

That year, Dougherty made an incredible 46 saves in two Memorial Day weekend games, starting with his 23-save masterpiece that sunk top-seeded, unbeaten Johns Hopkins at Byrd Stadium in the NCAA tournament semifinals. Even though Maryland lost two days later in the final to Syracuse, Dougherty was the runaway choice for tournament MVP.

"I used to give shooters my off [right] side because I wanted them to shoot there. I had a feeling warming up that day I could get [Hopkins] to do some things they weren't comfortable with," Dougherty said. "I was pretty good at staying in the moment and not getting too high or low. I felt like I played some of my best in big games."

As for Amonte Hiller, who was lighting up her competition on the women's team while he thrived in the cage, Dougherty said, "By far, Kelly was the best female athlete I had ever seen in my life. I mean, she could dominate boys playing basketball. We kind of grew up together as freshmen. The lacrosse family is tight at Maryland. We [on the men's team] were big fans of the women's team."

All along, there was Timchal, who left Northwestern in 1990 for Maryland, bent on winning championships at a school that craved the same. By 1992, with her up-tempo, push-the-ball style, Timchal led the Terps to a 14-1 record and the school's second national crown since the program's inception in 1974.

"Lacrosse really mattered at Maryland. That drew me there. I went there to win national championships," said Timchal, who is in her seventh year as head coach at Navy, and owns more victories (412) than any other coach in the sport's history.

"Getting Kelly Amonte and surrounding her with a great cast of players was a big help. Kelly stuck out clearly. I was glad she decided to leave New England and give us a chance. Not a lot of girls were making that kind of move at the time."

Amonte Hiller said she originally leaned toward Boston College and considered New Hampshire. Her older brother, Tony, played hockey at BU and later was a captain with the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks. Virginia and Maryland – the only two ACC schools with Division I women's lacrosse at the time – came after her late.

"When I was in high school, I really wanted to stay close to home [to attend college]," Amonte Hiller said. "The first time I had ever flown was on my recruiting visit to Virginia. But Maryland just felt right. Great academic school, and women's athletics was starting to be taken seriously. I felt like it was time to take a big risk.

Brian Dougherty, a decorated Team USA and MLL veteran, was voted the nation's top goalie in his last two seasons at Maryland in 1995 and '96, and the nation's top player as a junior.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

"Cindy was such a positive influence and a great motivator. She was not afraid to take risks. I can't even think of putting myself in the same category as Cindy. It's shocking to me that she isn't being inducted into the Hall of Fame until now."

Timchal pushed the envelope at Maryland after winning that first title. Looking for more of a strategic edge, she convinced Gary Gait, then a legendary player just out of Syracuse, to join her as a top assistant. She brought in sports psychologist Jerry Lynch as a consultant to help the Terps handle success more effectively.

After losing back-to-back title games, Maryland won it all in 1995, the first of seven straight championships. Amonte Hiller graduated in 1996. Two years later, Adams came aboard to cement the Maryland dynasty.

"We worked hard and feverishly to stay ahead of the pack, knowing that eventually people would start catching up," Timchal said. "Gary and I were crossing our fingers that Jen would show up. I was concerned if she was going to pull the trigger for us. Everything about Jen was about winning and poise under pressure. All we ever wanted to create as coaches was to get Jen the ball."

Dougherty had the same clutch ability to make the great save for the Terps. That was never more evident than the day he nearly single-handedly took down Hopkins, beginning with 12 saves in the first quarter.

Maryland's 16-8 rout put the Terps into the NCAA final for the third time since 1975 – the last time Maryland stood atop the Division I landscape. The Terps are 0-4 in the championship game since Dougherty's showcase weekend, including back-to-back losses the last two seasons.

"I still maintain that was the greatest single performance ever by a college goalie," Edell said. "When you say Brian Dougherty to me, I just smile and think of a fun kid to be around with a great athletic sense. He made us all relax."

"Doc" continued to thrive in the pro ranks. He earned three Major League Lacrosse (MLL) Goalie of the Year awards and got a storybook ending as the starting goalie for the gold medal-winning 2010 U.S. men's national team. He's now the head coach at Division II Chestnut Hill College.

"I came to Maryland with a little chip on my shoulders, being from Philly and not being a high society kid who was heavily recruited," Dougherty said.

And now, despite never winning an NCAA championship and being perhaps best known for a weekend he finished as a runner-up, Dougherty is headed for a slice of lacrosse immortality.

"It means a lot to me. First, it means I'm getting older," he said. "That was such a great time to be at Maryland. Basketball [under Gary Williams] was on its way back. The women were on a roll. We catapulted [men's] lacrosse back into the championship game. We were tight as a team, no cliques. It was just the perfect time."

This article appears in the October issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

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