Back in high school, Jen Giles and Taylor Hensh were family, but they were also rivals. With Hensh at Marriotts Ridge High School and Giles at Mt.Hebron the two cousins would battle it out for bragging rights in Howard County.

When it came time to go pick a college, it was an easy decision to team up at Maryland. Giles followed her older cousin, a freshman at the time, and joined the Maryland lacrosse team.

“It sucked playing against each other, so now it’s so great to be on the same team cheering for each other,” Giles said. “We’ve always been really close, but being here we definitely got closer spending every day together.”

Relationships like these are what make the lacrosse program so special, coach Cathy Reese believes. Nine players on the Terps’ roster have a family connection to another player or an alum of the lacrosse program and nearly all of them have at least one national championship under their belt.

“For us, and for me, relationships are what is most important about everything,” said head coach Cathy Reese, who played at Maryland herself. Her husband, Brian Reese, also went to Maryland. “In lacrosse there are the X’s and O’s, but the reality is that the relationships among our team and our coaches are what we’ll take with us forever. The sense of family and knowing we always have each others backs is what this program has been built upon.”

In over ten seasons at Maryland Reese has amassed over 220 victories and seven appearances in the championship game.

The Terps strong family culture is a critical reason for their success.

“When you play at a storied program there will be good days and there will be tough days, like every college student,” former Terps star Taylor Cummings said. “Having a family to lean on in the tough times and celebrate with in the good times is the best.”

The Cummings Family

Throughout this year’s roster there are nearly ten family connections to fellow teammates or alumni. Some, like Giles and Hensh, have relatives on the team. Others, like Kelsey Cummings, had siblings or relatives who are now alumni of the program. Some players are daughters of former Terps players, like Caroline Steele who’s mother, Gretchen, played for the Terps in the 1980’s.

“You always get to come back and see at least one or two of your teammates at games,” alum Brooke Griffin, who’s sister is currently a sophomore, said. “And for me to come back and see Brindi put on the jersey is really cool for me also.”

The family atmosphere helps the lacrosse program maintain their high standards of play year after year. With such a cohesive group, it’s easier to keep a calm head when under pressure. Against Virginia on April 4 the Terps let the Cavaliers creep back into the game in the second half, but they stayed calm and pulled out the victory.

“If we’re in a little bit of a funk and the other team is coming back, all it takes is a timeout, bringing everyone together and pumping each other up,” Caroline Steele said.

The Steele family celebrates the Terps' 2017 NCAA Championship.

After each home game, the team meets up with family, friends, and alumni for a communal tailgate in the adjacent parking lot regardless of the outcome. These tailgates offer an opportunity for the Terp family to come together and relax.

“Aside from winning, there’s nothing more important to the Terps than food,” Cummings said. “It’s a chance to unwind with not only teammates, but friends and family. It’s like a big family meal.”

These moments aren’t rare for the Terps. Reese and the coaching staff help the team stay relaxed throughout the season. Even on game day the Terps are loose and joking around with each other just focused on playing their best, most fun brand of lacrosse, Brooke Griffin said.

So while winning is a mainstay of the Terps historic program, that’s not what Reese focuses on with the team. Instead of creating a competitive environment that pits teammates against each other, Reese and the coaching staff create the perfect environment for student-athletes to be successful together, Taylor Cummings said.

“Cathy is the first to say that in 20 years you don’t remember the wins and losses,” Cummings said. “Instead you remember the relationships and the memories you create with your loved ones on the team.”

Maryland's Family Ties under Cathy Reese

Current Terps

  • Jen Giles - Taylor Hensh
  • Julia Braig - Lindsay Biondi (‘17)
  • Kelsey Cummings - Taylor Cummings (‘16)
  • Brindi Griffin - Brooke Griffin (‘15)
  • Shebly Mercer - Alice Mercer (‘16)
  • Julia Salandra - Taylor Salandra (‘15)
  • Caroline Steele - Kristen Lamon (‘15), Gretchen Lamon Steele (caroline's mother)
  • Steff Holmes - 3 brothers played for the men and Abby Caso (‘10) is her sister-in-law


  • Nicole Aust (2012-15), Alex Aust (2010-13)
  • Brandi Jones (2008-11), Brittany Jones (2008-10)
  • Mattie Meridith (2012-15), Liz Law (1985-88)
  • Abbey Clipp (2012-15), Becky Clipp (2004-07)
  • Martha Raver (2004-07), Kearny Rver (2006-09)
  • Jen Greenberg (2004-07) - Kate Greenberg (‘06), Emily Greenberg (Team Manager, 2008-09)
  • Taylor Zanelotti (2005-08), Meredith Zanelotti (2005-08)
  • Lynne Cooper (2006-09) Sara Cooper (2008-11)

Family Ties is a special presentation of umterps.com.

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