Its handsome, full-color brochure proclaims proudly on the back cover: "ODU -- The class of women's basketball." On the front cover, members of the Old Dominion University women's team are resplendently decked out in tails and white top hat, each clutching a white cane while they stand suavely in a spotlight.

The Old Dominion women's basketball team is now, as much as before, front and center in the sport. The Monarchs have won the national championship the past two years, producing all-Americas Inges Nissen and point guard Nancy Lieberman, the women's player of the year in 1979-80. This year, they are 9-0 and ranked second in the country, but more important, according to Coach Marianne Stanley, ODU has achieved it all with a certain distinction.

"I know some people look at our program as a standard, and it makes me feel very good," said Stanley, whose team plays 17th-ranked Maryland (5-1) tonight at 7:30 at Cole Field House. "I'm very happy with the support that Old Dominion has given us. They've been behind us all the way, and you can't overlook that.

"Our players play a good national schedule. We travel all over the country. We don't shy away from anybody and we'll play people on the road, not just at home like some teams do."

Although seven lettermen, including Nissen and Lieberman, graduated from last year's 37-1 team, Old Dominion still is loaded. Stanley recruited well, landing one of the top high school players in the nation in 6-4 Janet Davis of Alta Loma, Calif. Two players, forward Jean Walling and guard Suzanne Woolston, Transferred from South Carolina, which made it to the final four last year, and have made important contributions.

still, as much as the 1978-79 and 1979-80 teams carried the imprint of Nissen and Lieberman, the 1980-81 squad is marked by the imposing presence of sophomore center Anne Donovan. The tallest women's college player in the nation at 6-8, Donovan is averaging 29.1 points per game (shooting 66 percent from the floor) and 18.7 rebounds. In her best game of this season, against Norfolk State, she scored 50 points, making 23 of 27 shots from the floor.

Quiet and reserved, the slender Donovan seemed happy in playing secondary roles to Lieberman and Nissen last year. This year, she has become a relutant franchise.

"We had a number of discussions before the season began," said Stanley, who is 111-6 in four years at the Norfolk school. "She wasn't very high on taking the spotlight. But we told her we had to look to her for more leadership, and Anne has done that. She's become a real leader."

Maryland is led by 5-10 junior forward Myra Waters, who is averaging 19.5 points and 11.3 rebounds. Four other players are averaging in double figures for the Terps, who will be bolstered tonight by the return of sophomore point guard Debbie Lytle, academically ineligible the first semester.