The University of Maryland women's basketball team finished second in the AIAW championship tournament last season and Terrapin Coach Chris Weller figures her team will be contenders again this season.

The AIAW does not limit practice dates, so the Terps have been practicing since early September. Center Kris Kirchner, the leading rebounder and second-leading scorer on last year's 27-4 team returns.

The biggest early task is filling Tara Heiss' point guard position. Returnees Lisa Schlesinger and Lisa Schlesinger and Lisa Abood will get a shot, as well as freshman Lynn Callander of Columbus, Ohio, who is described as a carbond copy of the departed Heiss.

The Terps best recuiting catch was 5-foot-10 forward-guard Myra Waters. player of the year in Ohio last season.

The outlook also is bright at the area's other major schools.

American University returns all five starters off a 17-2 team, including Alice Butler, the area's leading scorer at 29 points per game, and recruited well under new Coach Linda Ziemke. Catholic, 17-8 a year ago, has 10 players back and Jane Connolly, a transfer from Maryland, replaces the only senior, power forward Bridget Bayly.

At Howard, the starting five from a 14-10 crew returns and Coach Sylvia Grooms has recruited two tall freshman centers, 6-5 Evonne Elliott and 6-3 Sandra Fields. George Mason, 9-11 a year ago, returns eight players but lacks size. George Washington returns five starters off a 16-11 team, but only three figure to start this year. The top newcomer is Linda Bond, 6-1 All-America from Sherwood High.

Georgetown will held its biggest center ever, 5-11 Kerry Keefe of Bainbridge Island, Wash., and three starters from an 11-9 team. Navy has eight returning lettermen from its first varsity team, which posted a 13-7 record Virginia, 8-17 a year ago, is shooting for 500 this year and the top newcomer is 5-3 Lynne Brown, a junior college All-America.