- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

COLLEGE PARK — Following two consecutive Final Four appearances and an unbeaten romp through the Big Ten, Maryland has loftier accomplishments in mind this season.

“We want to get to that national championship,” said junior guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. “That’s always the ultimate goal.”

The potential is there.

Although standout guard Lexie Brown transferred following her sophomore season, the No. 9 Terrapins still have plenty of talent left from a team that last season went 34-3 and won 28 consecutive games before falling to UConn, the eventual champion, in the NCAA tournament semifinals.

If Maryland could do all that after losing star Alyssa Thomas to graduation, then making up for the loss of Brown shouldn’t be an issue.

“We had a lot of doubters in the beginning because we lost Alyssa,” senior guard Brene Moseley said. “We carried ourselves very maturely, and our character was shown because we didn’t miss a step.”

Three of the five starters from last year’s team are back from the squad that won all 21 of its conference games during its first season in the Big Ten. Losing Brown will require some adjustment, but it’s nothing coach Brenda Frese can’t handle.

“You don’t anticipate losing your point guard from back-to-back Final Four teams,” Frese said. “We added two forwards. We’re really deep in our forward post position and we’re going to be thin in the backcourt. But at the same time, we’ve got two talented senior point guards.”

Moseley and Chloe Pavlech will alternate running the offense. Freshmen forwards Kiah Gillespie and Brianna Fraser join a frontcourt that includes 6-foot-4 senior Malina Howard and 6-foot-3 junior Brionna Jones.

Frese isn’t predicting a national championship, but said, “That’s always the goal, to cut down nets, to be as successful as possible. For me, it’s just figuring out the pieces.”

Maryland is 341-103 in 13 seasons under Frese, who’s taken the team to Final Four three times and won the NCAA championship in 2006.

“It’s a great coaching staff, a really good program that’s built on tradition,” Gillespie said.

A highly recruited freshman who played in the shadow of UConn at Capital Prep in Hartford, Gillespie acknowledged that she could have played for the Huskies but instead opted to head to Maryland.

“They showed that they were interested in me, but I couldn’t wait around,” Gillespie said. “Where I’m at now is pretty perfect for me.”

Maryland is the overwhelming choice to win another Big Ten title, but that distinction comes with the task of being targeted by every team. Since launching the program in 1971, Maryland has gone 883-407 and played in the Final Four five times.

“I look at it as an honor to be given the No. 1 seed,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “We learned last year you have to be ready day in and day out because you’re going to get the best effort from every team.”

The Terrapins’ toughest foe last season was Ohio State. Maryland beat the Buckeyes, 87-78, in December before squeezing out a 77-74 victory in the Big Ten championship game.

They insist that their success over the past two years won’t change their commitment to excel this year.

“It’s easy to get complacent and comfortable and just feel like the Final Four is inevitable,” Walker-Kimbrough said, “but I feel like our team continues to work because we’re not satisfied.”

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