Nine lacrosse legends — Ryan Boyle, Charlie Coker, Kara Ariza Cooke, Rachael Becker DeCecco, Sarah Forbes, Cathy Reese, Paul Schimoler, Richard Speckmann and Matt Striebel — will be inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame Oct. 19 at The Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley, Md. These are their stories.
No one, least of all a young Cathy Nelson, could have foreseen the future Cathy Nelson Reese accomplishing so much in the game of lacrosse as a player and coach that, at age 42, she would be selected for the sport’s highest honor.
But looking back, in some cases way back, those who have long known the current and hugely successful face of Maryland women’s lacrosse saw qualities in Reese that define a winner, exceptional leader and ultimately a National Lacrosse Hall of Famer.
Bob Sites, a cousin who grew up with Reese near Mount Hebron High School in Howard County, Md. — where her lacrosse talent would blossom with the three-time (1992-94) state-champion Vikings — recalled her fiercely competitive streak, even in grade school. It extended to such fun family events as an annual Easter egg hunt, where Reese did not hide her anger if she lost.
“She’s the same way when we play family board games or cards,” says Brian Reese, Cathy’s husband and the father of their four children (Riley, 15; Brodie, 12; Cayden, 10; Braxton, 8). “Let the kids win? Nope. She doesn’t take it easy on them. She’s never taken it easy on me. She makes everything a competition.
“But thank God for her. She’s organized, she’s prepared, way more than I am,” he adds. “Every day Cathy wakes up, she just attacks the day, like it’s the most important day of her career.”
Reese, a former, two-time All-American attacker at Maryland, recently led the school to its fifth NCAA title during her 13-year head coaching run in College Park, where she also had an impactful hand as a Maryland attacker on four national championship teams (1995-98).
Reese already has won more games (272) in College Park than any coach in program history, while losing only 22 times. Last spring, she passed the legendary Cindy Timchal, whom Reese played for, coached under for five seasons then replaced at Maryland.
Timchal, an eight-time champ at Maryland, left in 2007 to launch the varsity program at Navy, where she continues as the sport’s career victories leader.
For the fourth time, Reese has been named IWLCA Coach of the Year. As a player and assistant and head coach at Maryland, she has played a part in 12 of the school’s 15 national titles. She has guided the Terps to 10 consecutive final fours and has led Maryland to four NCAA crowns over the past six seasons.
“I enjoyed the game right off the bat — the speed of it, the skills it required, the challenge to learn it and be creative,” recalls Reese, who had played plenty of soccer, basketball and softball by the time she first held a lacrosse stick as a seventh grader at McDonogh School.
It was quickly clear which game would bring out the best in her. By the time Reese landed at Mount Hebron in 1990, the high school program led by then-Hebron guidance counselor and head coach P.J. Kesmodel — he also had launched the county’s Hero’s summer league in the late 1970s and eventually led its elite girls’ club team — was about to take off.
With a short, slick and deadly finisher named Cathy Nelson among its core of future Division I talent, Hebron dominated while rolling to three straight state titles, starting in her sophomore season in 1992. She capped Hebron’s second straight unbeaten season with 92 goals in 1993, then wrapped up with 78 goals and 43 assists and another crown in 1994.
“Cathy wasn’t overly impressive as an athlete — not that big or super quick. But when you put a lacrosse stick in her hands, she was so skilled and smart. She could not be covered,” Kesmodel says. “What a competitor. One of her goals was to have the [opposing] goalie crying by halftime.”
While Hebron was poised to go on an incredible run — the school would win 15 lacrosse state championships over 16 years — Reese recalled struggling during her senior year with a huge decision. After visiting Maryland, Virginia, Dartmouth, Princeton and William and Mary, she had narrowed her choice to the Terps and UVA.
“I still hadn’t made up my mind by the spring. Recruiting was so different back then,” Reese says. “Maryland was the place I wanted to do go, but what if I wasn’t good enough to play there? How would I handle it, if that didn’t happen?”
It happened. With Reese in the thick of things, Maryland added to Timchal’s first NCAA title in 1992 by going undefeated back-to-back to win it all in 1995 and 1996, then went a combined 39-4 and took home two more in 1997 and 1998. Three more would follow immediately.
“Cathy wanted to make a difference from the day she got here,” Timchal says. “Her ability to stand up as a leader on and off the field, backed by her obvious ability to play the game exceptionally well, prepared her to be a great coach.”
Former Maryland superstar Jen Adams, a fellow Hall of Famer widely considered the greatest player in the game’s history, spent one year as a Maryland teammate with Reese. She was a senior when Adams was a freshman, having landed in College Park from Australia in January 1998.
It would be a pivotal experience for Adams, who has been linked with Reese ever since. Reese would coach Adams under Timchal, and they would coach together briefly at Maryland.
When Reese accepted her first head coaching job at Denver in 2003, Adams joined her. When Reese replaced Timchal at her alma mater, Adams followed, and would later take over at Loyola. The pair still runs an elite summer camp every year.
“I will never forget walking into the Maryland locker room for the first time, a deer in the headlights,” Adams says. “Cathy’s presence stands out from the moment you meet her. She has always commanded a presence and filled a room. You want to follow her. I don’t know if I’d still be in America if Cathy hadn’t taken me under her wing.
“As a coach, she strikes the perfect balance between making it fun as a player and pushing you very hard to be successful. She’s insanely competitive. If you got on board with her, you knew you were backing a winner. I would have been shocked if she hadn’t become a coach.”
With 302 coaching victories behind her and a Hall of Fame induction shortly ahead, Reese says she is too busy attacking the next day to dwell much on such recognition.
“I learned so much about how to do this job from Cindy and from my time in Denver — recruiting, scheduling, motivating,” Reese says. “The Hall of Fame is huge honor, but when you get into the world of coaching, you don’t take much time for reflection. You’re always working on the next thing.”
The National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, a program of US Lacrosse, was established in 1957 to honor men and women who by their deeds as players, coaches, officials and/or contributors, and by the example of their lives, personify the great contribution of lacrosse to our way of life. The Class of 2019 will be officially recognized at the induction ceremony in Hunt Valley, Md., on Saturday, Oct 19. Tickets for the event, sponsored by RPS Bollinger and the Markel Insurance Company, are available at uslacrosse.org/HOF.
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