By Kyle Stackpole
Loyola women's lacrosse coach Jen Adams is used to having success, especially during her time as a player.
She led Maryland to four straight national titles from 1998-2001 while establishing herself as one of the best lacrosse players in history. Her 445 career points are still the most all-time. She won National Player of the Year her first three seasons before earning the first Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the country's best player, as a senior.
Growing up, Greyhounds senior goalkeeper Molly Wolf had a poster of Adams in her room.
"It's like Jen Adams," Wolf said, emphasizing the final two words. "She just is lacrosse."
Adams was named to the Division I women's lacrosse 25th anniversary team in April 2007, further cementing her legacy.
Now, the 36-year-old from Australia has returned the Greyhounds to national contenders since becoming their coach in 2009. Her fast, free-flowing style of play has led Loyola to an NCAA tournament win during each of its past five seasons. Entering the 2016 season, Adams' record as the Greyhounds' head coach was 96-42, and she led the Greyhounds (14-5 overall, 9-0 Patriot League entering the NCAA tournament) to another postseason berth this year after capturing their third straight Patriot League title.
"She came with a mindset of wanting to make the program great again," said senior attacker Maddy Blakeman, who led the team with 35 regular-season goals. "She came from playing at one of the top programs in the country, and so she has that mentality and, as a player, what it's like to be great. And I think that continued to her coaching perspective."
After contemplating various career choices, Adams, a sports marketing and management major, thought of becoming a sports agent or working for a professional sports company. Instead, she made the decision to coach.
She wanted to share her experiences with other student-athletes.
Throughout her career at Loyola, Adams has stressed the balance between getting to work and having fun. It's a trait Adams learned from Maryland head coach Cathy Reese when she was the Terps' associate head coach from 2007-08. The two also coached together at Denver from 2004-06.
Adams' philosophy is shown through activities unrelated to lacrosse. In the fall, Blakeman said the squad would break up into smaller teams and play other sports, such as soccer or basketball.
Wolf remembers instances after tough practices in which Adams would instruct the team to line up on the end line. Instead of making her players run, which many of them expected, Adams would surprise her bunch with an impromptu game of dodgeball or wiffle ball.
The team is with each other "24/7," according to Blakeman, as many of the players live together in addition to attending games, practices and workouts throughout the week. In her mind, these events help keep a light mood.
They've seen results on the field, too, claiming three straight Patriot League regular-season and tournament titles since joining the conference in 2014.
"I definitely think that's impacted how we've grown and how successful we've been," Blakeman said. "If anyone's miserable and not enjoying themselves, you're not going to get anywhere."
Wolf said Adams knows the "perfect balance between fun and serious" but added that what sets Adams apart from other coaches is the freedom she allows her team to play with on the field.
Going back to her playing days, Adams always preferred to play fast and without much direction. She enjoyed going with the flow of the game, something she's implemented with Loyola's offense. There are some sets, Adams said, but the majority of the time, the players' chemistry dictates how the team operates.
Adams also pointed out that this type of style makes Loyola harder to scout. It forces the opponent to game plan for a team that doesn't necessarily know its own strategy entering the contest.
"What I really try to foster with my players is to give them the ropes come game day and say, ‘I trust you and play the game how you like to play the game, and let's see what we can create on the field with that kind of mentality,'" Adams said.
On the recruiting front, Adams attempts to bring in players who are selfless, hard working and dependable. These characteristics serve as the ingredients for Loyola's culture, something Adams has been building with this program since taking over as head coach.
"She wants to put Loyola's name on the map while having amazing girls for the program play for her," Wolf said. "She finds the greatest girls to play with. I've made so many friends playing for her."
Issue 221: May 2016