How has America changed Jen Adams? Like, quite a bit, mate.
Sitting in a coffeehouse across from the Maryland campus, a caffe
latte in front of her, Adams, the nation's best female lacrosse
player, is explaining how the Americanization of an Australian
athlete can have its drawbacks. "The word like has popped into my
vocabulary, and it has become overused," says Adams, a senior at
Maryland. "I'll be on the phone and my mom's like, 'I'm going to
hang up if you say that word one more time.' It's like horrible."
She pauses. "Like horrible. There you go. I don't know where it
Where Adams comes from is South Australia, specifically Brighton,
a suburb of Adelaide. Her mates back home call her Rowdy, a slyly
ironic reference to her quiet nature, though Adams is anything
but quiet on the lacrosse field. With 71 goals and 44 assists
this season, she needs only two points to become the NCAA's
alltime scoring leader. The two-time All-America midfielder has
had at least one point in 74 consecutive games, a streak dating
back to March 31, 1998. "She reminds me of Wayne Gretzky," says
coach Cindy Timchal, who hopes to guide the No. 1-ranked Terps to
their seventh consecutive NCAA title later this month. "Here's
this ordinary-looking hockey player. Then he gets on the ice, and
it's magic. Jen looks like an ordinary athlete. Then she gets on
the field, and extraordinary things happen."
Adams is neither particularly big (5'7") nor especially fast, but
her fertile mind and slick stickwork separate her from the pack.
Unlike most U.S.-born players, she carries her stick loosely,
which gives defenders the false impression that they can check it
with ease. When they fail, as they inevitably do, she flashes
past them, finding either an open teammate or the back of the
net. From over-the-opposite-shoulder shots to behind-the-back
scores to darts between a goalie's legs, Adams scores goals with
the flourish of a three-card monte dealer.
Much of the credit for her success, Adams says, should go to
assistant coach Gary Gait, half of the famous Golden Gait
brothers, who a decade ago at Syracuse turned men's college
lacrosse into a high-flying circus. "She has so many moves and
shots that you can't just do one thing to stop her," says Gait.
Adams began developing that skill at age eight, when she signed
up for Brighton's inaugural junior women's lacrosse program. By
14 she was starting on Australia's world champion under-19 team.
Prodded by her older sister, Trisha, who played one year at
Maryland before homesickness kicked in, Jen arrived in College
Park in the winter of 1998. While she will graduate from Maryland
holding nearly every school lacrosse scoring record, she has
never felt comfortable being the poster girl for the program. Ask
Adams about her Gretzkyesque dominance, and she fidgets in her
chair. "I consider myself highly overrated," she says. "Often
people see I scored such and such goals, but if you were at that
game, you saw that [All-America midfielder] Quinn Carney stripped
20 people of the ball and created every chance."
"Clearly she's our best player and gets the bulk of the press,"
says teammate and fellow Aussie Courtney Hobbs, "but anytime
she's asked questions about herself, she gives it up for her
teammates. There's an honorable and modest quality to her."
Hobbs doesn't blink when asked why that's so. "Easy," she says
with a grin. "It's the Australian in her."
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID BERGMAN
"Jen has so many moves and shots, you can't just do one thing to
stop her," says Gait.