Freshman Rhonda Rompola, playing the biggest game of her short college career, would have been excused had she became jittery tonight.
Instead, Rompola made UCLA nervous as she scored a career-high 25 points and helped top-ranked Old Dominion win the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women's national championship semifinal, 87-82.
In the other semifinal, second-ranked Louisiana Tech (34-3) trounced third-ranked Tennessee, 102-84. The Lady Techsters face Old Dominion in Sunday's nationally-televised (WRC-TV-4, 4 p.m.) championship.
The 5-foot-9 Rompola made nine of 13 shots, mostly from 15 to 20 feet, pulled down a team-high 12 rebounds and added three assists and two steals to spark the Lady Monarchs to their 34th victory in 35 games.
ODU had to survive a frantic comeback by the defending champions. UCLA trailed, 83-67, with 2:57 left but rallied to 84-80 with 32 seconds to play.
Bruin guard Anita Ortega started the run with a steal and basket, then assisted on Debbie Willie's basket before fouling out with 58 seconds left and the score 84-75.
UCLA's zone press continued to upset the Lady Monarchs, forcing them into several bad passes and offensive fouls. A three-point play by Vera James and Dianne Frierson's 18-footer 14 seconds later moved the sixth-ranked Bruins to 84-80.
Rompola then sank a free throw, UCLA lost the ball and Nancy Leiberman made two free throws to enable the Lady Monarcho to breathe easier.
"We stopped pressing because Inge (Nissen) was in foul trouble in the late going," said Lieberman. "That allowed them to set up their offense, and when they can do that, they'll score. Plus, Billie Moore (of the Bruins) is an excellent coach and would not allow them to get embarrassed."
The Lady Monarchs, who romped by 30 in an early season meeting with the Bruins, led y as many as 25 in the second half. They built the lead behind the inside play of the 6-5 Nissen (24 points) and the outside shooting of Rompola.
"I'm glad to have them... on my team," said Lieberman, who contributed 15 points and 11 assists.
Nissen scored 14 points the first half and every other Lady Monarch starter added at least five as ODU built a 43-30 lead by intermission
Old Dominion came out hustling, twice stealing the ball kin the Bruin backcourt. When ODU missed, the offensive rebounding of leaper Angela Cotman and 6-foot forward Jan Trombly yielded numerous second and third shots.
The lady Techsters were paced by the inside power of 6-5 Elinor Griffin, who scored 35 points on 17 of 21 shooting. Pam Kelly added 23 points on nine of 11 field-goal attempts as Tech shot 71 percent in the game. Tennessee's long-shooting Cindy Brogdon scored 31 points.