- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 1, 2006

BOSTON — The players thought their bus driver either was lost or taking an unconventional route back to the hotel.

But as with everything Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese does, there was a purpose on the morning of Jan. 5.

With the big picture in mind, Frese used the hours leading up to the Terrapins’ game at Boston College to tour TD Banknorth Garden, site of the women’s Final Four.

Frese’s motive: Maryland had talked about the Final Four since the first day of practice. Now the players could actually see the destination.

“From my end, I’m a visual person, and everybody learns and sees things at a different rate,” she said. “I wanted to take them there so they could see and understand where the Final Four was going to be played, and in the big picture, that’s what we’re playing for.”

Frese proved to be prophetic. Tomorrow night, Maryland returns to the Garden to play North Carolina in the national semifinals.

“You always look like a genius when you pull things off like that and your team is headed to the Final Four,” she said.

When the Terps visited the Garden, the basketball court wasn’t even lain down — the Bruins were facing Ottawa that night. But the team walked through the bowels of the arena, sat in the stands and looked to the rafters at all of the Celtics’ championship banners.

“Coming up to the arena, most of the players had no idea what we were doing,” Frese said. “It showed them what we were playing for.”

Said sophomore Crystal Langhorne: “It made us realize where we really wanted to be. It was weird looking at the ice hockey rink, but just being in the gym made us think about our goals.”

Frese isn’t shy from doing out-of-the-box things. She once had the team at her house for dinner. But the guests did the work, with each class responsible for preparing one course.

During a season currently in its sixth month, Frese believes players need diversions to keep things interesting.

“I like to be creative, and I think it’s one of my strengths,” she said. “If you ask the players, it’s corny. But I try to do unorthodox things to have fun and take the pressure off the kids so that the long hours don’t seem like work.”

Nearly all of the things Frese has tried this season have worked. At the start of the season, despite consecutive second-round exits and a playing rotation that included two freshmen and four sophomores, she wasn’t shy to list the Final Four as a reasonable goal.

Freshman Marissa Coleman said Frese never used the Terps’ youth as an excuse.

“Coach B didn’t address our youth, and age and experience shouldn’t have anything to do with it,” Coleman said. “As long as you have players who are willing to do whatever it takes to win, that’s enough. We were never young — we never showed our age this season. I think we’ve stepped up and played like seniors.”

Junior Shay Doron disagreed that the Terps have made the Final Four perhaps a year early.

“In fact, last year was a disappointment, losing in the second round,” she said. “This is definitely on time for us.”

Said Frese, 82-45 in four seasons with Maryland: “The goal from Day One was to get to a Final Four and then win the national championship. I never set a timetable on any team or season. But I don’t know if anybody expected this team to do it in four years. But I’ve been able to coach some special teams, and when you have the kind of chemistry and character that this has, I wouldn’t put anything past them.”

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