When Maryland lacrosse coach Cathy Reese told her 5-year-old son Brody last week that the Terrapins might play Loyola and coach Jen Adams in the NCAA quarterfinals, Brody was all smiles.
"Mommy, that's so great. You can play each other and tie and both go to the championships."
Unfortunately for the close friends, Brody's wishful scenario cannot come true. Only one can move on from Saturday's noon quarterfinal in College Park to the final four Memorial Day weekend in Stony Brook, N.Y.
Facing each other won't be easy. Reese and Adams honed their coaching styles and philosophies together. They spent a year on the field together at Maryland and coached together for four years at Denver and at Maryland before Adams took her first head coaching job with the Greyhounds in the summer of 2008. Adams lived with the Reeses in Denver, and the Australia native said she considers them family.
They've tried to avoid this meeting for as long as possible.
"We knew it was going to happen eventually," Reese said. "We toy with it sometimes: 'Do you think we should play?' We're both top 10 programs. It would be a great meeting, but I don't know how to break it to my kids, so we'll just have to wait until they're all old enough to understand what's going on. The youngest one is 14 weeks, so we have to wait a while."
By then, Adams might have incriminating pictures of all four of Reese's children.
"They don't know this," Adams said earlier this week, "but I'm sending blackmail pictures of the kids — one of Riley (7) in a Loyola hat and one of Brody in a Loyola jersey. I figure I'll remind them of those come closer to the game."
Both also joke that since they run camps together in the summer, the one who wins the quarterfinal and gets to coach another week will have far less work to do on camp preparation.
"Not to take anything away from our teams, and it's going to be as professional as it comes when we have to play each other, but it has got that lighthearted feel about," Adams said.
Adams would prefer never to have to face her coaching mentor. After Reese, a two-time All-America attacker, graduated from Maryland, she spent five years as an assistant to Cindy Timchal as Adams emerged as a three-time national player of the year and the first Tewaaraton winner in 2001.
When Reese, a Mount Hebron graduate, took the head coaching job at Denver for the 2004 season, she brought in Adams as her assistant. Three years later, after Timchal left to start Navy's program, they returned to Maryland.
"It's a really tough game for me to play. It's one I've tried to avoid for a long time," Adams said, "but Cathy's mentored me through it all, telling me, 'You should be so proud of where you've gotten to and this is just another game and we go out and we play it that way.' She's been great in encouraging me to take nothing for granted."
When game time arrives, they will be all business. Take it from Loyola assistant coach Dana Dobbie, who played for both at Maryland in 2007 and 2008, Reese and Adams want to win this game badly.
"They're both so competitive and so passionate about their programs, their teams and their players that it goes far beyond wins and losses," Dobbie said. "For both of them, it's all about creating an experience for the student-athlete that once you graduate you'll always consider it the best experience of your life. For both of them, a huge part of that experience is making it to the final four.
"They both want the other to be successful and go as far as possible. It's tough coaching against each other wanting to get to that next step, but at the end of the day, they'll be proud of each other and happy for whoever goes on."
Maryland is the gold standard for college women's lacrosse with 10 NCAA titles, so making it to the final four is always expected. The No. 3 Terps have been to the title game 16 times, including the last two. They beat Northwestern for the 2010 championship but fell to the Wildcats, 8-7, in last year's final.
This year, Reese, a four-time Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year and the 2010 national Coach of the Year, led them to a record fourth straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
The No. 6 Greyhounds have been to the national semifinals seven times but not since 2003. Adams, the 2011 co-Big East Coach of the Year, has quickly rejuvenated a program that didn't qualify for the tournament from 2005-2010. She has them in the quarterfinals for the second year in a row.
Loyola won its second straight Big East title, upsetting then-No. 2 Syracuse, then went on to beat Penn in overtime in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The matchup may be a bit more difficult for Adams, because she has to face her mentor and the alma mater she still feels a strong connection with.
"There's a lot of deep-rooted respect for Cathy, for the Maryland program," Adams said. "If nothing more, it makes me want to really go in there and give them a tough game. We're going hard at it and looking for our opportunities as a team. We put ourselves in this position to be playing as a top eight team, and it doesn't matter who it is at this point."
Reese feels the same way: "When we step out on that field on Saturday, it's not us vs. each other, it's Maryland vs. Loyola. It's a game of lacrosse and two teams that are going to fight hard to make it to the final four."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun