- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2008

After giving birth to twin boys a week ago, Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese has spent her days at home with her new family.

She has taken time off from her responsibilities in College Park, but the Terrapins have expected her extended leave since learning of her pregnancy. They’re accustomed to playing without their energetic leader, because Frese has traveled with the team just twice since late November.

So No. 4 Maryland (27-2, 11-1 ACC) prepared for today’s game against Florida State (15-10, 5-5) without a hiccup.

“Our coaches have been preparing us for this all season,” senior Crystal Langhorne said. “With her out now, I think everything is going to be OK. We’re used to her not being there on some days, and now it’s just going to be all the time.”

The team visited Frese on Thursday, the first time any of the Terps had seen her since she gave birth before their win at Duke last Sunday. Although there is no official date for Frese’s return, she expects to be back for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, scheduled on March 23 and 25 at Comcast Center.

The Terps were excited to see Frese and meet her sons Markus and Tyler but quickly shifted their attention back to the Seminoles with full practices Friday and yesterday.

“Our team is really focused,” senior Laura Harper said. “We have a lot of upperclassmen to lead the way. It’s been the same steady pace since November when [Frese] couldn’t come to California. Now it’s just a matter of time of her getting back, and hopefully it won’t take her too long to get back.”

Assistant coach Daron Park has taken the reins in Frese’s stead. As the season and Frese’s pregnancy progressed, she conceded more control of the Terps’ day-to-day activities to Park. He oversees Maryland’s practices and coaches its road games. At home games, he has remained active on the sideline, yelling instructions to the team while Frese watched from the bench.

Now, until Frese returns, he’s the full-time boss.

“I’ve obviously had to adapt to a different role than what I initially thought I was getting into, but it’s been a very easy adjustment thanks to the players and the rest of the staff here,” Park said. “They’ve understood that this would have to take place for us to continue to be successful and they’ve really been open to it and embraced everything that we’ve had to do to help Coach B with her pregnancy.”

Park has done a commendable job in Frese’s absence. The Terps’ only setback with him at the helm was a double-overtime loss at No. 2 North Carolina on Jan. 26.

The first-year assistant said it has taken a collective effort for the Terps to maintain their winning ways while Frese was limited by her pregnancy. Langhorne and Harper have helped him prepare the team for conference games.

“I talk to coach Park all the time about what this team needs from him,” Harper said. “For Duke, for example, I told him to bring as much energy as possible because we radiate off that. He definitely made a conscious effort to do that for us. He doesn’t know us as well as Coach B, so it’s a communication thing to make him a better coach for us. We know that once we’re honest and we have that communication flow going, we’re perfectly fine.”

As the Terps players wait for their coach to rest, they expect more of the same in the last weeks of the season — winning.

“There hasn’t really been anything to adjust to,” Park said. “We have had this situation on and off throughout the season. For us, it’s really been business as usual.”

Today’s game

FLORIDA STATE (15-10, 5-5 ACC) AT NO. 4 MARYLAND (27-2, 11-1)

When: 2 p.m.

Where: Comcast Center

Radio: AM-1300

Outlook: On Senior Day, Maryland will try to finish a perfect 19-0 at home this season. The Terrapins will honor their seniors with a pregame ceremony. This crop of seniors — coach Brenda Frese’s second recruiting class at Maryland — is the winningest group in program history (111) and led the team to its first national championship in 2006. Center Crystal Langhorne, the program’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, also will have her jersey honored after the game. She is the fifth Terps player to receive the honor.

Michael Fratto

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