- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 21, 2009

After winning the ACC tournament March 8, the Maryland women’s basketball team relished the opportunity to rest the various aches that accompany a 32-game season.

But two weeks is a long time between games, especially for a team used to playing two or three times a week.

So as the top-seeded Terrapins (28-4) prepared for their Sunday date with 16th-seeded Dartmouth (18-10) in the first round of the NCAA tournament, that eagerness to rest transformed into anticipation just to play a game again.

“It feels like it’s been such a long week,” coach Brenda Frese said. “I think it’ll be fun for Sunday just to be able to get back in [Comcast Center] and play a real game.”

In addition to scouting Dartmouth, the Terps’ preparation for their first-round game included taking in the Maryland men’s game against California on Thursday. Frese gathered the team to watch and gain some additional mojo for their first-round game.

“For us as Terps fans, to see the men come out and play with such great confidence and intensity and get their first-round win, it definitely helps us get ready to play,” she said.

Maryland enters the tournament with plenty of momentum. The Terps have won 12 straight games and in the process captured the ACC regular-season and tournament titles.

That hot play, combined with the team’s mix of experience and youth, has Frese liking the Terps’ chances of making a deep run. They have postseason experience in the form of Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver, who have each played in a dozen NCAA tournament games and were part of the team that won the 2006 national championship. Add to that savvy a healthy dose of youthful exuberance.

“The great thing is we’re being led by our veterans, by our seniors,” Frese said. “Then our young kids are just excited. They bring kind of a renewed sense of enthusiasm and energy for playing the tournament. I think it’s a great combination for us.”

One of the keys for the Terps will be the play of their supporting cast. Opposing defenses have focused even more so on Toliver and Coleman during Maryland’s winning streak, and the duo expect more of the same in the tournament.

“I think they are being more physical with Kristi and I, trying not to let us get so many easy looks,” Coleman said. “But it opens up things for our teammates, and they’re doing really well and stepping up to the challenge. So if they want to key on Kristi and I, that just opens it up for Lynetta [Kizer] and Dee [Liles] and now Kim [Rodgers].”

The Big Green are an accurate shooting team, but like most Ivy League schools, they prefer to play at a deliberate pace. The Terps will try to counter with their transition game off turnovers and defensive rebounds.

“They shoot the ball extremely well,” Frese said. “We’re going to have to value our possessions on the offensive end and make good use of them.”

Toliver, the ACC player of the year, and Coleman, the ACC tournament MVP, will make those tasks easier. After missing out on the Final Four the past two seasons, the duo have been vocal about their desire to get back. The seniors have embraced their leadership role and are intent on guiding the Terps to St. Louis.

“I’m ready to go play,” Toliver said. “It’s been a while since we last played in the ACC tournament, and we just want to continue that high that we had going on in the regular season.”

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