- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Maryland women’s basketball team is the highest seeded team remaining in its quadrant of the NCAA tournament, has won a program-record 30 games and has not lost to a team that was not entrenched in the top 10 throughout the season.

So naturally, the Terrapins think they are the underdogs entering this weekend’s Albuquerque regional.

And how, exactly, is that?

“Does anyone expect us to win at this point? No, except for us,” junior guard Shay Doron said yesterday. “We’re the underdogs. Just because of a little number in front of our name doesn’t mean every single person in the country doesn’t think otherwise.”

Second-seeded Maryland (30-4) survived the first two rounds of the tournament to reach the regional semifinals for the first time since 1992. The Terps outlasted pesky St. John’s in the second round Tuesday, grinding out a victory in much the same fashion as they had for much of January and February while other heralded teams were blowing out their opponents.

The Terps were tentative for much of the game, at times a bit stunned the Red Storm continued to make shots and admittedly playing not to lose for stretches. That attitude should disappear now that Maryland has reached the second weekend of the tournament after losing in the second round the last two seasons.

“That was a big key for us, getting past that hurdle of getting to the Sweet 16 since this team has never done that,” coach Brenda Frese said. “Now I feel like the pressure is completely off of us.”

The Terps appeared to catch a break when top-seeded Ohio State fell to Boston College on Tuesday, perhaps lending greater importance to Maryland’s regional semifinal Saturday against third-seeded and defending national champion Baylor (26-6) at the Pit in Albuquerque, N.M.

Yet as the Terps watched Tuesday’s late games on their bus ride home from central Pennsylvania and the ensuing analysis, they heard about how imposing All-American Sophia Young and Baylor were, as well as how Ohio State’s loss was proof Tennessee should have been the fourth No. 1 seed.

“All they’re talking about in our bracket is Baylor and that Tennessee should have been in our bracket ahead of us,” Frese said. “We feel like still we have a lot to prove and that we continue to not get the respect we deserve. Everyone is penciling in Baylor to that Final Four run to Boston.”

The Terps’ players caught on to the perceived snub as well. Sophomore forward Laura Harper began rattling off Maryland’s accomplishments yesterday — notably, its victories over North Carolina and Duke, a pair of No. 1 seeds — and how they have been ignored.

Then she came up with a simple yet effective way to reverse the neglect.

“It’s just funny to me how no one respects us,” Harper said. “We were just thinking, ‘When are we going to get respect? Just when?’ I guess we just have to win the national championship.”

Note — Frese was named a finalist for the Naismith coach of the year award. The other finalists are Louisiana State’s Pokey Chatman, Ohio State’s Jim Foster and North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell.

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