Going into the semifinals of the EAIAW tournament at Cole Field House tonight, Maryland Coach Chris Wellis is nervous, "more nervous than for any other tournament in the past five years."
As the 13th-ranked Terps take on 10th-ranked Cheyney State, Weller said her team "has had the ability to win it all throughout the year. We're right on the verge of being the best team in the nation. This weekend, I guess, I'm so nervous because I'll be seeing the fruits of our labor."
What makes this year's Terps so different at tournament time is their disparity of performances. The fruits of Weller's labor could ripen or rot.
"I think we can play with anybody but to be so close, yet have so much to prove, well, that's what makes it all so nerve-racking," said Weller.
The Terps narrowly edged Cheyney, 666-62, at Cole this season, Cheyney's all-America Valerie Walker scored just 14 points that game, five below her average, but was hobbled with an ankle injury. "They'll be looking to average that loss," said Weller. "That makes me more apprehensive about this game than anything else."
However, the Terps are ranked lower than Cheyney, "which might help to keep the psych equal," said Weller on second thought.
Cheyney (25-5) and Maryland (18-8) are similar in that they have played very demanding schedules and their losses are virtually all to top 20 teams.
Going from the mental to the physical , the Terps hope to profit from their height advantage. In the first meeting of the teams, Maryland was led by forwards Pam Reaves and Kris Kirchmer, who scored 24 and 23 points, respectively. Reaves, however, suffered a turned ankle in practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable.
Weller plans to return point guard Debbie Lytle to the starting lineup after her sterling performance in the Terps' 80-59 win over Seton Hall last Friday in the tournament's opening round.
As for handling Walker, Weller said, We won't discuss that. It might give away our strategy."
Just to haunt Weller even more, Cheyney mauled Montclair State, 82-45, in the opening round of the tournament. "Montclair is a traditionally strong tournament team," said Weller, "Cheyney must be at the top of his game."
The winner of the Maryland-Cheyney game will meet the winner of the Penn State-Rutgers game which will tip off at 7 p.m. The Terp game follows at approximately 9 p.m.