- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2006

The “other” women’s basketball team in the ACC this season — playing in the shadows of Duke and North Carolina — has become the area’s “other” Final Four participant — preparing in the shadow of George Mason.

But that doesn’t mean Maryland, in its first women’s Final Four since 1989, is going unnoticed.

“It’s great to finally see this room full,” coach Brenda Frese said yesterday to an audience that included nine cameras around 10 print reporters at Comcast Center.

Maryland (32-4) faces North Carolina (33-1) on Sunday at 7 p.m. in Boston. The Terps and Tar Heels have split two meetings this season. Duke plays LSU in the second game.

Three teams from one conference in the Final Four is a women’s basketball first. In the men’s tournament, Georgetown, St. John’s and Villanova of the Big East made the Final Four in 1985.

“It’s basically the ACC tournament all over again,” junior guard Shay Doron said.

The Terrapins get back to work today before departing for Boston. The days off have allowed the team to enjoy Monday’s 75-65 overtime win over Utah.

“Our life has been a whirlwind since we got back here [Tuesday],” Frese said. “We’re enjoying the moment, but we’re also very focused on the next task.”

Asked whether the Final Four berth had sunk in yet, Frese said: “For me, it hasn’t. I’m trying to enjoy it now, but I’ll probably appreciate it more when the season is over. I’ve said all season long, this is a special team having a special season, and they’re taking us along for the ride.”

Said freshman Marissa Coleman: “Once we get to Boston and start seeing the Final Four signs and see ‘Maryland’ everywhere, that’s when it will set in. The excitement is there for us — everybody is ready to get up there and play.”

With help from Coleman, fellow freshman Kristi Toliver, sophomores Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper and junior Doron, Frese has turned Maryland from an ACC also-ran — 13-17 the year before Frese arrived in 2002 and no appearances in the final Associated Press rankings since 1993 — into a national power.

The Terps are the only non-No. 1 seed in the Final Four. That, coupled with a starting lineup that includes two freshmen, two sophomores and one junior, probably makes them the underdogs.

Maryland, though, is the only team to defeat North Carolina this season — 98-95 in overtime Feb. 9 in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels won the rematch March 5 in the ACC tournament title game 91-80.

The Terps point to the win over North Carolina as a turning point.

“Just a special win and it established for our team that we could beat anybody in the country,” Frese said.

In the second meeting, North Carolina forced 19 Maryland turnovers and outrebounded the Terps 48-37. Already posted in the team’s locker room are signs that simply read, “REBOUND.”

“We have to be able to rebound better,” Frese said. “It was both teams’ third game in three days, so I definitely think our team will be sharper and fresher [this time]. North Carolina was relentless and really killed us on the boards.”

Notes — Langhorne was named a second-team All-American on Tuesday. She leads the Terps in scoring (17.2 points a game) and rebounds (8.8 a game). … Several Maryland players had flu-like symptoms in New Mexico, but Frese said she expects the entire team to practice today.

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