- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2006

The buzz at the University of Maryland over the women’s basketball team — which plays for the national championship tonight in Boston — has increased from inaudible to a low hum.

“People are proud,” said Scott Dance, an editor at the student newspaper, the Diamondback. “But it’s not the same as if the men were playing in the national championship. … Everything on campus would just stop.”

Students and faculty said the team’s Final Four win Sunday night against a favored North Carolina team has increased the buzz.

But only a small core of fans is living and dying with each Terps contest.

“I was a wreck yesterday,” said Jeanne Welch, who played basketball for Maryland from 1964 to 1968, and now works in the university’s athletic department.

“I don’t believe that no one knows what’s going on,” said Mrs. Welsh, 59. “I think the whole sports world knows that Maryland is on the map.”

Missy Meharg has coached the university’s women’s field hockey team for 18 years. She won her fourth national championship in November, and she flew to Boston for Sunday night’s game.

“They’re amazing,” she said of the women’s team and their coach, Brenda Frese.

“The energy is here with the most important people, and that’s our people,” Meharg said, noting that her players went to see the basketball team off when they left for Boston.

But Meharg said it can be difficult with such a lack of limelight.

“You can get real mad or frustrated if you pay a tremendous amount of attention to things you can’t control,” she said. “If we wasted time on being jealous, we wouldn’t win.”

Lauren Powley, 22, who played on Meharg’s national championship team last fall, said she understood why more people like to watch men’s basketball more than women’s.

“It’s more uptempo,” she said. Miss Powley also said that exposure is not everything.

“You don’t really need the attention. It’s nice to be recognized, but it comes down to doing it as a team,” she said.

The difference between men’s and women’s basketball was evident at the team store, on the second floor of the basketball arena.

Store manager Argenis Torres said he had sold about 230 T-shirts and hats in the past week, and they were prepared to order another 200 or so if the team wins tonight.

But two years ago, when the men’s team won the ACC championship, the store sold more than 3,000 pieces of merchandise, he said.

The women “have a good team, and it’s sad that they don’t draw as much as the guys draw,” Mr. Torres said.

He added, “I follow it because I work here, but if I didn’t I probably wouldn’t have as much interest.”

A few students said they were coming to appreciate the women’s basketball team even more than the men’s, which struggled this year for the second year in a row and lost its leading scorer, Chris McCray, when he became academically ineligible.

“I’ve been finding more enjoyment out of the women’s than the men’s programs,” said Brian Hirsch, 19, a sophomore from Baltimore. “I’d like to go to the game, but Boston’s a long ways.”

Off campus things were pretty quiet as well, like at Potbelly Sandwich Works on the southern corner of campus along Route 1.

“We definitely get a lot of business from them [Maryland athletic contests], but that’s with the men’s games,” said sandwich maker Monica Thompson, 22, of College Park.

But just three doors down was a glimmer of pride, as a store displayed T-shirts on sale, with the words, “The Good UMD, The Bad UNC, The Ugly Duke.”

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