Toliver, Coleman Aren't Done Winning for Terps

ACC title, NCAA championship on their minds

Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman have already left an impressionable mark on the Maryland women's basketball program, playing key roles on the school's lone national championship team.

  That was in 2006. They're seniors now, and still have more to accomplish before heading to the WNBA.

  "This is my last year to get some more banners in Comcast Center," Coleman said. "Kristi and I have the opportunity to do what none of the seniors before us have done, and that's win the ACC championship and the national championship. If we could do that, we would have a great legacy."

  Toliver and Coleman are two big reasons why third-ranked Maryland has an excellent chance to at least reach the quarterfinal round of the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years. The duo has a combined 212 games of experience, accounted for nearly 2,000 points and, most importantly, gone 95-14 over the past three years.

  Their responsibility will increase this season. Besides providing points and rebounds, Toliver and Coleman have been asked to be leaders on a youthful squad that includes four freshmen and three sophomores.

  "Kristi and Marissa have been through the wars," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "They've had great leadership ahead of them, so they know what our expectations are."

  Toliver, a 5-foot-7 point guard, averaged 17.2 points last season and set an ACC record with 275 assists. She is a preseason All-American and named the ACC preseason Player of the Year.

  She's honored by the accolades, but for Toliver, this season has nothing to do with personal accomplishments or individual awards.

  "It's not something I'm going to focus on. It's not going to change my mentality for this team, or the success I want this team to have," she said. "This season is all about team. It's about Marissa and I putting our leadership together. This is our team. It's only going to go as far as we take it."

  The quest begins Friday night on the road against Texas Christian University.

  Last season, Crystal Langhorne, Laura Harper and Jade Perry dominated the backboards and provided plenty of offense in the paint. All three are gone, and without an experienced center on the roster, the 2008-09 Terrapins will be vastly different from the squad that went 33-4 last season.

  "We're going to spread the floor more this year," Frese said. "We're going to be smaller inside but we'll be a lot better off the dribble and with penetration."

  Frese missed part of last season giving birth to twins, but she returns this season re-energized and eager to make up for lost time. Her focus during the preseason was to push her young players without overloading them with too many X's and O's.

  "That's the exciting thing. We've really enjoyed coaching this new, young group," she said. "They're going to get plenty of opportunities to come in and show what they can do for this team and this program."

  Freshmen Lynetta Kizer and Yemi Oyefuwa will take over at center for Langhorne, a first-round pick in the WNBA draft. Kizer is a McDonald's All-America and the 6-foot-6 Oyefuwa comes to Maryland by way of London, England.

  Coleman will alternate between guard and forward, and oft-injured Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood is finally healthy after missing last season with a knee injury.

  "I definitely think this year will the one when I can actually show what I have. The last few years I've been in college I wasn't able to do that because of my knee," Wiley-Gatewood said. "Hopefully, that won't be a problem this year."

  When Maryland won the title in 2006, it came as a surprise. Now the Terrapins are expected to do well. But that doesn't mean they can't be loose on the court.

  "The main thing is, that year we had no pressure. We just went out and had fun and played our game," Coleman said. "That's what we're going to try to do this season."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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