Things are too quiet in Norfolk for Nancy Lieberman. It's semester break at Old Dominion and she's dying to go home.
Home is New York City and the neighborhood gym is Madison Square Garden. That's more like it. The Christmas hustle on 33rd Street. As the flamboyant, loquacious jewel of the nation's top-ranked women's college basketball team. Lieberman is shining with predictions and promotions heading into this weekend's Manufacturers Hanover Christmas Tournament.
"Whoever misses this tournament is missing something big," said Lieberman, her voice rarely falling below 110 decibels. "You have four of the best teams in the country, at least five Olympic prospects, the coach of the year last year . . . everything. For me, on the other hand, this is going to be just a nice trip, an enjoyable game and we're going to win."
Lieberman has a point. With Rutgers, Lousiana Tech and Maryland rounding out the field, this is the event in women's basketball until the chapionship finals in March. The four teams had a conbined record of 119-16 last year. Old Dominion was rated No. 1 in the country and Louisiana Tech was No. 2
Maryland the greenest of the four clubs, may grow up very quickly on the streets of New York as it faces Old Dominion in the first round Saturday night.
Terp Coach Chris Weller has a simple antidote for a Nancy Lieberman.
"A Debbie Lytle." tLytle, a 5-foot-10 freshman guard, is a solid all-around player. Lieberman, 5-10, is a sensational, all-around senior.
Like any worthy promoter, Lieberman foresees a real battle.
"I saw Debbie Lytle play this summer," said Lieberman. "She's an extremely talented young lady.We should be matched up quite a bit throughout the game and I'm looking forward to it."
Lieberman preferred to talk about Terp forward Kris Kirchner, who "was my roomie in the Pan American Games this summer and is an All-American. No doubt. She can light 'em up any time."
Kirchner has been lighting them up all the time so far this year, averaging 24.3 points and 15 rebounds.
As for Maryland's inexperience -- two sophomores and a freshman are in the starting lineup -- Lieberman said, "They're still trying to replace Tara Heiss from two years ago. That's their real problem. But besides Old Dominion, Maryland is one of the most talented teams in the nation."
Weller agreed, but like the protective matriarch doesn't want her family to feel pressured. "We're just real excited about playing with three of the best teams in the country at Madison Square Garden," Weller said. "We're very young but we feel we'll be able to go out and play a decent game. Then again, we could fall flat on our face. But we aren't going in with that kind of attitude."
Old Dominion has every intention of coming out with a smile on its face. In addition to Lieberman, with her 19-point average, the Monarchs start three other seniors: forwards Chris Critelli, guard Rhonda Rompola and 6-5 forward Inge Nissen.
"Inge is who we're really scared of," said Weller, who plans to have Kirchner shadow Nissen, who averages 18 points and 11 rebounds.
"Inge is the best forward in the country," said Lieberman. "We're just so glad we don't have to play against her."
Old Dominion's other starter is 6-8 New Jersey freshman Anne Donovan, who leads the Monarchs in scoring with 19-points per game.
Lieberman, who manages to put everything in the vernacular of New York, said, "Anne and Inge are like my own World Trade Center. The twin towers in the middle."
Weller knows what she is up against.
"They don't have a weak spot in their line-up," she said. "There's no doubt they should be favored but we're not going in scared to death. We're going to make a good showing. This is Madison Square Garden and we want to look good."
Lieberman also wants to look good at the Garden. But then again, playing there is for Lieberman "just like playing in Far Rockaway."