While the Maryland women’s locker room was dejected Monday night following the Terrapins’ NCAA tournament loss to Louisville, there was a distinct undercurrent of appreciation for Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman.
“It’s been fun,” freshman Lynetta Kizer said. “You learn so much from these two. They’re pretty much big sisters out here. It definitely hurts seeing them go, but it’s definitely meant the world to me to experience playing with these two.”
Toliver and Coleman chose Maryland in part because they wanted to help rebuild a program instead of adding their names to a long list of stars at a well-established one.
And that’s what they did.
Coleman and Toliver rank second and third on the school’s all-time leading scoring list, respectively, and are the winningest players in the program’s history with a career record of 126-19.
On Tuesday, Toliver became the first Terps player to become a first-team Associated Press All-American. Coleman, who scored a school-record 42 points in the Terps’ regional semifinal win over No. 4 Vanderbilt, earned second-team honors.
But they likely will be remembered most as starters on the 2006 national championship team.
“They’re winners,” coach Brenda Frese said. “I’ll go into war with them any time because of what they mean to our program and what they’ve been able to do for this team.”
The duo morphed an inexperienced group in November (that lost its first game to TCU) into a national title contender. In the process, they led the Terps to the ACC regular-season and tournament titles for the first time since 1989.
“They are two of the best players I’ve ever played with,” junior Dee Liles said. “They helped me not be so laid-back and nonchalant and made me want to fight for my team. Hopefully I can be an image of them next year.”
Toliver and Coleman embraced their leadership roles this year and became perfect complements of each other for guiding the Terps. As the emotional leader, Coleman brought high energy to the court every day.
Whereas Coleman brought the fire, Toliver brought a calm, assured confidence. The Terps rarely panicked when facing adversity because of Toliver’s stoicism.
Toliver and Coleman had the benefit of experiencing an NCAA title run in their freshman year and a disappointing second-round exit in 2007. Experiencing both scenarios allowed Toliver and Coleman to develop a unique insight into the NCAA season. Because of that, Frese often let her two seniors handle locker room discussions at halftime and before games this year.
“It’s helped so much [to play with them],” sophomore Marah Strickland said. “I don’t think I’ve learned more in my entire career of playing basketball than these two years. I’ve learned so much from these two guards. I think they’ve helped me grow as a player and helped me to look towards the future and what I need to do as a leader.”