The Maryland women's basketball team sat glued to the television in the corner of Heritage Hall at Comcast Center waiting for the announcement.
A few fans and family members broke out into a "Red-White. Red-White" chant, but then as the NCAA women's bracket was unveiled, the cheers turned to "shhh's," like family members gathered for movie night.
Then came the moment all had waited for: Maryland will be the No. 2 seed in the Raleigh region of the NCAA tournament. It will play its first game Saturday at home against No. 15 seed Navy. Should Maryland advance, the Terrapins will play March 19 against the winner of Louisville/Michigan State.
Big East runner-up Notre Dame is the top seed in the Raleigh region. Defending national champion Texas A&M, which beat the Irish in last year's final, is the No. 3 seed.
After the announcement that Maryland had made the tournament for the eighth time in the past 10 years, the room erupted with people waving towels and soon another cheer: "We are ... Maryland."
But for the players sitting at the front of the room, neither rallying cry accurately sums up its season. Instead, they wore black T-shirts with the slogans, "Fight to Finish" on the back and "12 Strong" on the front.
" 'Fight to Finish' was kind of our theme going into this season," coach Brenda Frese said. "We felt like a year ago there were a lot of things we didn't finish: games, the ACC tournament, the NCAAs. We talked about our theme this year needed to be fight to finish, and that kind of was our mantra going in."
Playing without a senior last season, the Terps fell at home to Georgetown in the second round of the tournament. Frese said the team lacked a "sense of urgency" that comes from having upperclassmen.
"We learned you can't take anything for granted," Frese said. "Just playing at home doesn't guarantee an automatic to Raleigh. It's one and done."
Said sophomore guard Laurin Mincy: "[Last year's loss] taught us to fight to finish. We all collectively think we gave up. But this year, we're going out there 12 strong and we're going to fight to finish."
This season, Maryland (28-4, 12-4 ACC) claimed the two seed thanks to a strong late season push and a seven-game win streak dating to mid February. The streak includes the ACC championship, but the Terps are quick to point out that the title is not the end goal.
Fans posed for pictures around the ACC trophy at another corner of the room. But after the seeding was announced, the trophy was pushed aside as if to say the Terps were on to bigger things.
"We did a little bit by winning the ACC tournament," second-team All-ACC forward Tianna Hawkins said. "But people are still doubting us, and we still have to work day in and day out."
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