“Resilient. Without excuse. Just find a way. I think that’s Brenda,” said ESPN women’s basketball analyst Debbie Antonelli, who regularly calls ACC tournament games. “She’s going to have a game plan, and she’s going to put it together, and she’s not going to make excuses. She’s just going to figure it out. They have been dealt a tough hand, and she didn’t complain.”
Certainly no one would begrudge Frese if she had lamented second-seeded Maryland’s improbable circumstances that began Oct. 21, when sophomore Brene Moseley tore her ACL in a scrimmage and was lost for the season. The first-team All-Met as a junior at Paint Branch was set to become the starting point guard, taking over for graduated Anjale Barrett.
A month later, starting shooting guard Laurin Mincy tore her ACL in a 90-71 victory over then-No. 19 Nebraska in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The junior, who was the Terrapins’ second leading scorer a year ago, also required surgery and won’t be back until next season.
In between those injuries, backup senior center Essence Townsend tore her ACL in practice, and a team that began the season with Final Four hopes was down to just eight players.
Frese, meantime, began to start freshman Chloe Pavlech by necessity at point guard and asked Thomas to handle the ball much more than she was accustomed to as a natural forward. Frese also gave Tierney Pfirman and Malina Howard, both freshmen, extended playing time and coaxed important minutes out of junior guard Sequoia Austin, who became a scholarship player midway through her freshman season.
Frese shortened practice times and reduced the number of practice days, preferring instead to allow her charges to recover in the midst of a rugged ACC schedule that had expanded to 18 games this season. And in spite of the calamity, the Terrapins were in contention for the regular season title until the final week, won at least 21 games for the ninth consecutive season under Frese and remained in the top 10 wire-to-wire.
As a result, Frese was named ACC coach of the year in a vote of her peers, the first time she has won the honor.
“Coach Frese is just amazing,” said Pavlech, who on Tuesday was selected to the ACC all-freshman team by reporters and school representatives. “Her qualities are just great. One thing she’s really harped is rest. Rest equals success, that type of thing. She understands that we are limited, like we don’t have a lot of players, and that it’s crucial for us to get our recovery and rest time. Her and the coaches always have a plan for us, and it’s been working so far.”