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Area Women

Teams Feel Excitement, Relief

U-Md. Will Host in NCAAs; U-Va., GW, Va. Tech Will Travel

By Kathy Orton
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, March 14, 2005; Page G14

Maryland point guard Anesia Smith summed up the sentiment of most local teams after learning their fates last night when the NCAA tournament selections were announced.

"I said, 'Finally,' " Smith said. "We've been waiting for this all week. . . . When it goes across that screen, it was just a sense of relief."

GW Coach Joe McKeown, left, chats with school vice president Robert Chernak after the bid was announced. (Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)

Maryland was pretty confident it would play at home because Comcast Center is hosting first- and second-round games. The seventh-seeded Terrapins (21-9) play No. 10 Wisconsin-Green Bay (27-3) on Sunday.

George Washington had hoped it would be playing at Comcast Center as well. Instead, the ninth-seeded Colonials (22-8) will travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. to play No. 8 Mississippi (19-10) on Sunday.

Virginia missed the NCAA tournament last year for the first time in 20 years. The Cavaliers (20-10) are back in it, seeded sixth and will play intrastate rival Old Dominion (22-8), seeded 11th, in Minneapolis on Saturday.

Virginia Tech was one of the last at-large teams to make the field of 64. The No. 12 seed Hokies (17-11) will play fifth-seeded DePaul (25-4) at Comcast Center on Sunday.

Maryland is making back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for the first time since 1991 and 1992. The Terrapins went from a No. 12 seed last year to No. 7. "It's just exciting to keep progressing and moving forward with this program," Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said.

After losing to LSU on the Tigers' home court in the second round last year, Maryland is thrilled to be playing at Comcast Center, where it went 12-3 this season.

"We really feel like we gained some big momentum from the [ACC] tournament," Frese said. "We're excited, one, to be playing in the NCAA tournament and two, to be playing at home."

GW went from a No. 7 seed in 2003, to a No. 8 in 2004 to a No. 9 seed this year.

"It really doesn't matter to me any more" where the Colonials are seeded, GW Coach Joe McKeown said. "You just want to play and go from there."

After losing, 83-46, to DePaul in last year's first round, the Colonials want to make a better showing against Mississippi. If GW gets past Mississippi, the Colonials could have an interesting second-round game against North Carolina. In 1997, GW upset top-seeded North Carolina in the round of 16.

"There's some history there," McKeown said. "I think we're capable of anything."

After having its streak of NCAA appearances snapped last season, Virginia wasn't about to miss the tournament this year. "This team worked extremely hard this year to turn this thing around, to get back in the tournament, not just back in the tournament, but all the way up to a six seed," Virginia Coach Debbie Ryan said. "I'm really proud of what we accomplished this year."

Ryan was surprised to play Old Dominion in the first round. Virginia trails 16-12 in the series with its rival, but beat the Lady Monarchs, 72-64, on Dec. 10 in Charlottesville.

Lynn Parkes, chair of the Division I women's basketball committee, explained that the committee did not want teams who played each other during the regular season to meet in the first round. However, because of the way the seeding fell, it had no choice.

"We tried to avoid that matchup, and we simply couldn't make the move," Parkes said.

Although it was perhaps the most nervous local team awaiting the release of the brackets, Virginia Tech didn't have to worry. Besides belonging to the strongest conference in the country -- the ACC sent seven teams to the tournament -- Virginia Tech benefited from three wins against teams in the top 25 of the Ratings Percentage Index and two wins against teams in the top 50.

"We felt like that that was very credible, and that they were worthy of the bid," Parkes said.

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