How Champions Are Made
Coach Jen Adams Brings Strength and Passion to Loyola's Women's Lacrosse Program
Jen Adams’ impact on Loyola almost never happened.
The Greyhounds were seeking a new women’s lacrosse coach in 2008. Adams, less than a decade removed from a dominant college career at the University of Maryland, was an assistant coach at her alma mater. When Loyola reached out to gauge her interest, her first instinct was simple: Thanks, but no thanks.
Then-athletic director Joe Boylan and associate athletic director Teddi Burns, ’86, persisted.
They cajoled her to make the short drive to campus. They promised that if she wasn’t interested, they wouldn’t call her again. They hoped the chance to see what Loyola was about would only pique her curiosity.
They were right—especially after she left a room where she met several of Loyola’s players.
“People always talk about this gut feeling. I walked out of that room, and that was the aha moment for me, where I was walking down the hall and Teddi Burns and I were walking together, and we heard the room erupt and start cheering. And she said ‘You’ve got to come here. This is the place for you,’” Adams says.
“The rest is history.”
The history includes 15 seasons, a University-record 209 victories, 11 NCAA tournament appearances, eight conference tournament titles, and a 75-0 regular-season record against Patriot League opponents. This season Adams led the team to another (the team’s ninth consecutive) Patriot League Championship and to the NCAA quarterfinals—and became Loyola’s winningest women’s lacrosse coach along the way.
Those are merely numbers. They don’t reflect how seamlessly she fits with the campus community.
When you think about Loyola and the history they’ve had, what family means, Jen brings that every single day.
—Taryn VanThof, ’15
“The more she learned about the Jesuit mission and values, I think it aligned with her values,” Burns says. “I think that’s when she started to think ‘Wow, this is something I could do.’ The potential is there to be successful on the field and what we do as a university aligns with who she is as a person.”
There are several parts of that foundation. Burns says when she does exit interviews with graduating seniors, she routinely hears about how much Adams values them as people and encourages them to participate in activities beyond lacrosse.
Some of it comes from blending lacrosse and other causes. During the 2023 spring season alone, the Greyhounds had games dedicated to Morgan’s Message supporting mental health; One Love, a national organization that works to end relationship abuse; Parkinson’s awareness; Black Lives Matter; and the HEADStrong Foundation, which supports families affected by cancer. The team also brought in youth from Baltimore’s Harlem Lacrosse chapter and, in turn, attended their games.
To Adams, the aim is to create a complete experience that her players would not trade for anything upon graduation.
“That takes a lot of moving parts,” Adams says. “That takes the entire institution. I can trust that they’re going to class, and they’re getting that from the faculty and the professors and the staff, they’re getting that in the general community because of the type of person Loyola attracts.”
It doesn’t hurt, of course, that she’s Jen Adams. A member of multiple halls of fame, she was the three-time national player of the year and ranks No. 3 all-time in career points in Division I.
Taryn VanThof, ’15, remembers looking up to Adams since she was a fifth grader attending one of the star player’s camps. She would go on to become an All-American midfielder at Loyola from 2011-15, incorporating what she could from one of the sport’s legends into her game.
“She is the greatest player of all time,” VanThof says. “Getting to then play for her, you got to watch everything she did through her career, and you want to do exactly what she’s telling you. You know you want to be the best, and you’re learning from the best. It’s even more motivating than someone else saying it to you. It’s like ‘Yeah, I want to be that level, be that caliber, be that kind of player.’”
VanThof’s admiration of Adams continued to grow when she decided to pursue coaching, and she interned with Adams and longtime assistant Dana Dobbie.
For all there is to emulate, perhaps the most significant was a knack to bring the program’s players—past and present—together and make them feel important.
Diane Geppi-Aikens is often quoted as saying she was lucky every day—and that’s how we feel with Jen as our coach.
Adams is quick to credit her predecessors, Diane Geppi-Aikens, ’84, and Kerri Johnson, ’97, for establishing the tradition of the Loyola program. But it’s clear the unassuming Adams, whom VanThof describes as “the humblest human you will ever meet,” has also imprinted her own personality on the Greyhounds over the last decade and a half.
“She’s a perfect match,” says VanThof, now the head women’s lacrosse coach at Arizona State. “When you think about Loyola and the history they’ve had, what family means, Jen brings that every single day. It’s instilled in us. Once we graduate, you can tell by the sheer number of student-athletes that come back for alumni games, come back to watch games, come back to just be a part of the program... it’s never-ending.”
The connectedness goes far beyond just players. Burns says there are professors who attend more Loyola road games than she does.
Adams considers it a highlight anytime she opens her email and sees a note from a professor complimenting her for the quality of people in her program. “They don’t need to go out of their way to send a message, but they do,” Adams says.
And there is little sign Adams is slowing down.
Loyola is 39-5 over the last two seasons—the most wins in a two-year span in program history—along with a pair of trips to the NCAA quarterfinals. As a player, she was known for her dazzling creativity as she played a role at four national championships. As a coach, she is constantly evolving and learning, doing anything possible to keep things from growing stagnant.
That hasn’t happened yet.
“Diane Geppi-Aikens is often quoted as saying she was lucky every day—and that’s how we feel with Jen as our coach,” says Burns, remembering Loyola’s late and much-loved head women’s lacrosse coach, a 1984 graduate of Loyola who passed away in 2003. “There have certainly been many opportunities for Jen to go elsewhere, and I think at the end of the day, she feels that she can be successful here. She’s getting the student-athletes here that she wants to coach and that buy into who we are and want that total experience.”
And therein lies the key to it all: Adams believes it’s a cycle—the people make the place, and the place makes the people—and her greatest job is to keep finding young women who fit what Loyola is all about. The University’s principles, she says, buy into her who, what, and why as a person.
“It is exciting and intriguing when you find the right kind of people—they come in and see it, and I get excited that they’re going to get to experience this and take it with them for the rest of their lives.”
Adams explains she’s even been stopped at the airport by people who’ve seen her players with passersby saying, “I just need to let you know I’ve run into one of your young women, and they’re just exemplary.”
That’s the stuff that gives you goosebumps as a coach, that you’re doing something right. Forget the wins and losses,” she says. “These are young women who are going to go on and do amazing things.