By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 20, 2010; D05
BERKELEY, CALIF. -- For a team that hasn't been to the NCAA tournament in 17 years, the Georgetown women are remarkable blasé about their appearance in the event.
Then again, the Hoyas haven't been too impressed with their accomplishments all season. It has been no big deal to them to win the most games in program history, to earn their first ranking in the Associated Press poll in 15 years and to finish tied for second in the Big East.
Anytime anyone brings up all they've done, their response is to shrug and tell you that is what they expected all along.
"The players say: 'Hey, why is everybody so excited about this? This is where we're supposed to be. This is everything that we've worked for,' " Georgetown Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "It's always been their mentality. 'Why is anybody surprised that we're in the NCAA tournament? We told you we were going to do that when we came [to Georgetown].' "
Georgetown's indifferent attitude could serve the fifth-seeded Hoyas (25-6) well as they prepare to play No. 12 seed Marist (26-7) in a Memphis Region first-round game Saturday night. By not placing too much importance on the game, they'll lessen the likelihood that they'll play tight.
The Red Foxes are tournament-tested veterans. They are making their fifth consecutive and sixth overall appearance in the 64-team field. Three years ago, they reached the Sweet 16.
"I think it helps to know what the tournament is like," said Marist forward Rachelle Fitz, a senior who is playing in her fourth NCAA tournament. "You are playing bigger, better, faster, quicker teams. . . . It is nerve-wracking the first time [in the NCAA tournament]. It is a different atmosphere."
The Georgetown players aren't really buying into the notion that Marist's experience gives the Red Foxes an advantage.
"We have gone over Marist," junior guard Monica McNutt said. "Yes, they are a good team. Yes, they're experienced. But we want to win, and we're hungry, too. We're not looking at their experience as a huge factor."
At times, Georgetown -- a team with 10 freshmen and sophomores on its roster -- seems too young to know better, and it's that innocence that makes them bold, if not fearless.
"I think everybody saw it when we played U-Conn.," Williams-Flournoy said. "The one thing that everybody keeps saying: 'You guys weren't scared. You just went out there and competed.' Our girls weren't scared. They're just not. I don't think they know how to be scared. Their mentality is just totally different."
For all the talk about how inexperienced Georgetown is, the Hoyas did make a deep run in the Women's National Invitation Tournament last season, falling to Boston College in their quarterfinal. They do know what it is like to play in a tournament where every game could be your last.
The Georgetown women also followed closely what happened to the men's team Thursday night, when the Hoyas lost to Ohio in the first round.
"It hurt but if we had to find a positive to come out of that it's a reality check for us," McNutt said. "Anything can happen in the NCAA tournament. As everyone knows, it's our first time here and we know we have to be extra sharp on all our P's and Q's, dot all I's, cross all T's and come out fully prepared and ready to play from the tip-off. There's no room for lethargy."
Added Williams-Flournoy, "We didn't want our men to lose, but now I can go right back to [the players] and be like, 'Hey, I told you if we don't rebound and if we don't play defense, you can't win.' "
It has been a long time since Georgetown has been a part of the NCAA tournament, but if the players have anything to do with it, this will not be the Hoyas' last appearance.
"We definitely think we deserve this opportunity, but we understand that it's not something that we want to take for granted," McNutt said. "We're here. We're here to win games. We want people to know that we're a good team, and we're a force to be reckoned with."