Maryland Women Depart for Raleigh
There was little fanfare when the Maryland women departed Comcast Center this afternoon for Raleigh, N.C., where they will play Vanderbilt in a South Region semifinal on Saturday. Four television cameras filmed the players as they wheeled their gear out of the arena, into a light rain and onto the bus that will take them all the way to North Carolina. (The NCAA requires teams that are playing at a site within a 350-mile radius to use ground transportation.)
Senior Kristi Toliver was the first player on, while junior Dee Liles and redshirt freshman Anjale Barrett brought up the rear. Mark Thomas carried the bags of his wife, Coach Brenda Frese. (Twins Markus and Tyler are staying with Thomas's parents.) About a dozen athletic department employees stood outside and cheered and waved when the bus began to pull away shortly after 1:30 p.m.; they laughed when it stopped and video coordinator Mike Harness got off to run back inside. He returned moments later with a DVD of the last "Under the Shell" episode and the ESPN broadcast of last year's Maryland-Vanderbilt NCAA tournament game.
The Terrapins won that game, 80-66, in the West Region semifinals. The familiarity they have with Vanderbilt will help them prepare, but they also know that last year's result might motivate the Commodores, the Southeastern Conference tournament champion.
"I'm excited about it, it's going to give us a chance to go out with that much more energy," senior Marissa Coleman said. "They're going to come out with the mentality that this is a revenge game. That's going to be a challenge for us to come out with that much more intensity and focus."
Maryland won't have the benefit of playing in front of a large, enthusiastic home crowd, as it did in the first and second round. The two games at Comcast Center drew a total of 20,912 fans, which was easily the biggest crowd at any of the 16 sites, and was 10 times larger than the crowds at the worst-attended site, the Galen Center in Los Angeles (total of 1,978). Still, the Terrapins expect to be well supported at Raleigh's RBC Center, just as they were at Greensboro Coliseum for the ACC tournament.
"Yeah, it's been a while since we've been on the road, but Vandy is on the road, too," Toliver said. "It'll be a home environment because we're going to have so many fans there, so we feel really good about that."
Said Frese: "We have the best fans in the country. It just brings back fond memories, just Greensboro and the ACC tournament, which actually was about an hour and a half further [than Raleigh]. For the championship game, we had more fans than Duke, who was only an hour from their campus. For us Raleigh is an easy drive, and I know that for all the great fans and supporters we have, there's going to be a tremendous sea of red in the stands. That's something that's very exciting for us."
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