- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

When the Maryland women’s basketball team meets George Mason in its home opener today at Comcast Center, there will be nods to the program’s national championship before the Terrapins move on with their promising 2006-07 season.

Any visitor to Comcast will be able to take in some of the memories, from the center of the court from the Final Four hanging in the building to the national championship banner in the arena to the trophy in the lobby to match the display for the Maryland men’s title in 2002.

For fans who can’t make it to College Park, there’s always “Overtime is Our Time” (Terrapin State Publishing, 190 pages, illus., $24.95), a recent release devoted to the remarkable turnaround of the Maryland women’s program in the last four years.

The Terrapins’ renaissance began in April 2002, just as the Maryland men were wrapping up their own championship in Atlanta. Athletic director Debbie Yow was busy luring Brenda Frese (then Brenda Oldfield) away from Minnesota after one season to rebuild a once-proud program gripped by mediocrity for nearly a decade.

Author Chris King delves deeply into Frese’s background and what brought her to Maryland just as the modern Comcast Center was opening. Particular attention is paid to her initial recruiting efforts, which landed future star Shay Doron and Kalika France as the Terps struggled to a 10-18 season in Frese’s first year.

That class led to an even greater haul the following year, as King chronicles how Frese collected many of the pieces — Crystal Langhorne, Ashleigh Newman, Jade Perry and eventual Final Four most outstanding player Laura Harper — that proved critical to the Terps’ rapid maturation.

There are also repeated references to Frese’s motivational ploys, some hokey, others inspired. Of particular note was Frese’s decision to take the Terps on a detour during their trip to Boston College in January for a visit to the arena the Final Four would be played at a few months later.

It didn’t hurt Frese that some bulletin board material was seemingly handed to her. The Terps groused about being overlooked when they earned a No. 2 seed on Selection Monday, a feeling that was amplified a week later when television analysts dismissed Maryland’s chances of a deep run in the tournament.

The most revealing aspects of King’s work are the behind the scenes antics of a team many people didn’t pay much attention to until it burst out in Boston last spring.

From the locker room celebration after an upset victory at No. 1 North Carolina to the relief of finally defeating Duke at the ACC tournament to overcoming a virus that afflicted nearly the entire team before the regional final against Utah in Albuquerque, N.M., the book chronicles the run to the title.

Of course, any recap of a title season wouldn’t be complete without remembrances from the actual championship week, and both the Terps’ impressive semifinal victory over North Carolina and their overtime thriller over Duke in the final are thoroughly vetted, especially Kristi Toliver’s 3-pointer against the Blue Devils that forced overtime.

The national final bumped Maryland’s record in overtime games to 6-0, an unusual feat that would be difficult to duplicate. The same can be said for another national championship, a possibility explored in a closing chapter titled “A Budding Superpower?”

Yet no matter how many titles — if any — the Terps add in the coming years, none will be savored or appreciated as much as the program’s first. And there is no better tribute available today to that team than “Overtime is Our Time.”

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