Every college coach in America scours the country looking for the game-changing recruit that can help put a program on the map, and most coaches feel lucky to find just one.
Navy women's lacrosse head coach Cindy Timchal discovered her program's signature recruit right in her own backyard, but with a twist. She stumbled upon her game-changing recruits under the same Clarksville, Md., roof in high-scoring senior identical twins Jenna and Julia Collins from River Hill High School.
"We're kind of a package deal," Julia Collins said.
The good fortune is not lost on Timchal, who still has trouble telling the two players apart even with their numbered practice pinnies.
"We are very fortunate that Jenna and Julia came to the Naval Academy," said Timchal, who became the first NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse coach to record 500 wins with a 19-7 victory against Holy Cross March 31. "They are two very bright women who are incredible lacrosse players. They have an incredible amount of dedication and love for the sport and are a pleasure to coach because they are incredibly tough in practices and games. They also are incredibly resilient and look to get better every single day."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Collins Family
It's no coincidence that with the talented twins on the roster, Navy's program has soared to new heights. The twins were instrumental in the team’s Patriot League championship and national semifinals appearance last spring. The Midshipmen finished the year ranked fourth and entered this season with their first preseason top-10 national ranking.
An attacker, Julia Collins was named to last year's NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team after finishing the NCAA Tournament with 14 goals in four games, including an eight-goal performance during Navy’s second-round win against University of Massachusetts.
Jenna Collins, a midfielder, earned a spot on last year's Patriot League All-Tournament Team and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Patriot League Tournament, scoring eight points as the Midshipmen snapped Loyola's 43-game league win streak. Jenna Collins also contributed 21 points in four NCAA Tournament contests.
"Up until the Patriot League Tournament, I don't think that we had really clicked the way we wanted to," Julia Collins said. "We got by Lehigh in a close game in the semifinals by the skin of our teeth, and then everything just clicked for us against Loyola -- the goalie, the defense and the offense. Clearly, we peaked at the right time for us to come together and play a full 60 minutes in the championship game. That really helped our confidence going into the NCAA Tournament, and we were able to keep it going."
While most teams talk among themselves about dream seasons and advancing to a Final Four, Jenna didn't become a believer until it actually happened.
"When we were freshmen here, the coaches told us that we would get to a Final Four before we graduated, and I was kind of like 'Oh, OK', and took it kind of as a joke," Jenna Collins said. "And now since it happened, it’s something I will never forget. It's been an amazing ride the past three years."
When you talk to the Collins twins or see them in person or on the field, it's easy to see why Timchal struggles to tell them apart. They truly are identical in appearance. Both are 5-feet-8 inches tall. Their answers to questions are eerily similar, as are their voices and mannerisms. And everything at the Academy has been "awesome" for both of them.
The main difference between the two, other than their positions and the numbers on their jerseys, has been recognition. Despite both of them putting up eye-popping numbers, Jenna Collins has received more formal accolades.
Jenna Collins has been a second-team All-American, a two-time All-South Region Selection, a two-time All-ECAC pick, the Patriot League Midfielder of the Year twice and a three-time first-team All-Patriot League selection. She notched 72 goals and 42 assists a year ago to become the third player in Navy history to eclipse the 100-point mark and is now closing in on 300 career points with 48 goals and 13 assists, as of April 10.
Julia Collins, whose first national recognition was the NCAA All-Tournament award, is on the verge of surpassing 200 career points thanks to her 32 goals and 11 assists this year. She recorded 75 points while leading the team in draw controls with 118 last season.
"In past years I was so upset when she didn’t get some of the recognition I did because she really has deserved it all along," Jenna Collins said. "She’s a really great player, and now it’s awesome seeing her start to get more attention. People are seeing how amazing she is and what a great player she is."
Julia Collins returned her sister's love.
"I am her biggest fan and love seeing her get all the recognition she deserves,” Julia Collins said. "I'm always happy for her and happy to do my part on the field to help her. I just feel fortunate that I’ve gotten to be part of this team and witness all the great plays she makes on the field."
Photo Credit: Phil Hoffmann/Navy Athletics
Issue 243: April 2018