The University of Maryland women's team finds itself in the familiar role as underdog tonight when it faces UCLA for the naitonal title of the AIAW tournament at Pauley Pavilion at 11 o'clock (EST).

The game will not be on radio or TV in the Washington area.

Despite impressive victories over top-ranked Tennessee, 75-69, and Southern Connecticut, 96-53, in the South Region playoffs, and No. 2 Wayland Baptist (90-85, in the national semifinals Thursday night, the Terrapins (27-3) haven't convinced the skeptics they are for real.

"People are still calling our win over Wayland a fluke. They don't feel we should be here," said Terp forward Debbie Stewart. "We're the underdog again against UCLA. Maybe it'll work to our advantage again."

The Terps certainly won't get much of the "smart money" from the bookies in nearby Las Vegas, mainly because of the injury to the Terps' best defensive player - jane Zivalich.

The 5-foot-10 junior, who was expected to guard UCLA four-time All-America Ann Meyers, suffered strained knee ligaments after colliding with Wayland's Breena Caldwell.

"I hope to play. I feel a little pain in it but plan to rest it until game time and see what happens," said Zivalich.

Maryland Coach Chris Weller said if Zivalich doesn't play, she would have to "make a lot of adjustments" to match up with the quick, talented Bruins.

Meyers turned in her usual dependable performance in the Bruins' 85-77 win over Montclair State in the other semifinal. The 5-9 senior scored 19 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, had eight assists, six steals and two blocked shots.

It was the playmaking of Meyers and the inside domination of 6-1 twin centers Heidi Nestor and Denise Curry (22 points each) that helped the Bruins offset the 40-points performance of Montclair's high-scoring Carol Blazejowski.

UCLA took a 14-point lead at the half, 52-38, and Montclair never was able to stop the balanced Bruins from scoring inside. The Squaws managed to cut the deficit to eight several times in the second half but could come no closer.

"UCLA looked much quicker than . . . the first time we played them in January," said Weller. (The Terps won, 92-88.) "We'll have to beat them inside. Play a more controlled game."

Maryland trailed Wayland Baptist by a point at halftime, 45-44, before 6-3 Kris Kirchner began to score at will inside against the foul-plagued Plainview, Tex., team.

Kirchner, averaging 12.8 points and 10.1 rebounds, poured in 30 points, 20 in the second half, and hauled down a game-high 17 rebounds.

Kirchner's scoring in the early minutes of the second half helped keep Maryland in front until senior point guard Tara Heiss and Debbie Jones put Wayland Baptist away to stay.

Heiss sank four baskets and Jones added four points, a steal and a rebound in the final minutes to help the Terps hold off the taller Flying Queens.

In UCLA, Maryland will see almost a carbon of itself. Both teams like to run, hit the boards and stick basically with man-to-man defense. UCLA, with Curry averaging 20.4 points, Anita Oretga 18.7 and Meyers 18.5, is scoring 96 points per game. As a team, the Bruins shoot 51 percent from the floor and 67 percent from the free-throw line.

Heiss averages 14.3 points per game with Kirchner at 13.8 and Zivalich and Betsy Bailey next at 12.4. Maryland also shoots 51 per cent from the floor in averaging 90 points per outing.

Neither Weller nor first-year UCLA Coach Billie Weller nor first-year UCLA Coach Billie Moore is anxious to get in a run-and-run game.

"I hope it won't be a Ping-Pong match. The team that's able to control the tempo will control the game," said Moore. "Maryland is much bigger and stronger inside than we are. They're also quick. And that could be a problem because we've always been able to take advantage of teams because of our quickness."

In addition to being a bit low over the status of Zivalich, several of the Maryland players were disturbed that four-year floor leader Heiss was not on the 10-player Kodak All-America team, announced yesterday.

"Tara deserved to be on the team. Only three of the 10 judges on the committee had ever seen Maryland play," said Steward. "You would have thought some of them would have taken the trouble to come out and watch her play once. Maryland has been overlooked and taken lightly all year."

Heiss was not overly upset, saying she "expected not to be selected. They tend to look at stats too much and since I don't score a lot of points . . . I felt I deserved to be on it but I'd just as soon win the national title."

UCLA suffered its three losses during an Eastern road swing in January. Since then, the Bruins have rolled to 20 straight victories.

"We found out what we needed on that trip. It wasn't important if we returned 5-0 or 0-5," said Moore. "Tonight, we'll see just how much we've improved."

If Zivalich doesn't play, Weller will have to decide whether to start Mary Briese or Stewart. If Briese, a senior averaging 6.3 points per game, starts, she may draw the assignment of containing the elusive Meyers. If Stewart starts, to give the Terps additional rebounding strength, Weller may assign Debbie Jones to Meyers.

"Zivalich guarded Meyers the first time and did a good job. Right now, matchups are a question mark," said Weller. "I just hope we can stay with them." Montclair State's Carol Blazejowski, a three-time selection, and Tennessee junior Cindy Brogdon, a member of the 1976 Olympic team and a repeater from last year.

The other players were North Carolina State sophomore center Genia Beasley, Delta State senior guard Debbie Brock, LSU sophomore center Julie Gross, Queens, N.Y., senior center Althea Gwyn, Wayland Baptist senior guard Kathy Harston, old Dominion sophomore foward Nancy Lieberman and Kansas freshman center Lynette Woodard.

Blazejowski led the nation in scoring with a 38.5 average. She scored 50 points against Queens last week in the East final to become the all-time collegiate women's scoring leader, supassing Phillips, Okla.'s Karen Cannon's total of 3,115. Blazejowski has a total of 3,158 points with one game to play.