We're really excited, said junior Tianna Hawkins. I think the way we finished really kind of boosted our confidence going into the tournament so we're looking forward to doing well and coming out with a championship.
The Terps come into the tournament having won seven of their last eight games to earn the three seed in the ACC, and are playing at a level that has Head Coach Brenda Frese pleased. However, she knows that every team is going to be gunning for the title, no matter how they finished in the regular season.
You have to have a sense of urgency knowing that every team that goes down there is going to be in that same state of mind, said Frese. At this point the slate is wiped clean and it's a new season for everyone.
The first team that Maryland will face will be the Virginia Cavaliers - the six seed - whom it will play in the quarterfinals at 8 p.m. Friday. The Terps beat UVA twice during the regular season, but after last year's tournament loss to Georgia Tech, no one in the Terps' locker room is looking past the Cavaliers.
Virginia is very scrappy, very active in terms of leading the conference in steals, and you have to really value the basketball in terms of what you're doing, said Frese.
Sophomore Laurin Mincy has only been facing the Cavaliers for two years, but she said that some of the upperclassmen have spoke of some great past battles that the two schools have had.
Virginia always play us tough, she said. It's kind of like an around-the-area rival.
Should both Maryland and second-seeded Miami win their quarterfinal games, the two will face off in a semi-final match on Saturday that is sure to be a fight to the finish. For the Terps, it will be a chance for revenge against the only team that managed to beat them twice in the regular season.
Something I always say is that it's hard to beat a team three times, said senior Lynetta Kizer. We're going to play hard that first game and if we match up with Miami I know our girls will be ready to play.
After squandering a lead in the final minutes during their last game against Miami, Frese knows exactly what her team needs to do to finally knock off the Hurricanes.
If we're fortunate enough to be able to play one another, we've got to be more fundamental defensively late in the game. We've got to take care of the basketball, we've got to do those little things that separate you in games that come down to possessions, she said.
The Terrapins are also using last year's early exit as motivation. For sophomores like Mincy and Alyssa Thomas, there is a world of difference from their freshman season to now.
Last year [Laurin and I] didn't really know what to expect being that it was our first conference tournament, so this year we know we have to come out with our best game every night to make sure we stay out on top, said Thomas.
Frese agreed, adding that she feels having seniors on the team this year after having none last year has helped create a greater sense of urgency. The underclassmen really want to play and send our seniors off the right way, she said. Kizer echoed the feeling.
I know the girls are going to play hard, especially with the way we went out last year, said Kizer. Some of the players are going to come in with a chip on their shoulder. I know everyone wants to send the seniors out on a good note so I'm excited to see how we respond down in Greensboro this year.
To win the ACC Tournament, the Terps will have to win three games in three days, a daunting task for any team. But Frese feels that her team will benefit from the schedule they have already played, and called some of the quick turnarounds they've had to face advantageous to knowing how to prepare for this weekend.
I think we're more than ready, added Kizer. I think our strength of schedule has fully prepared us for this last stretch going into ACC and NCAA Tournament play.
Yet no matter what happens to the Terps down in Greensboro, Frese believes that there will be a solid weekend of basketball on display.
At the end of the day when you look at our conference and you look at Miami, Duke, and us specifically, you have three teams right now in the Top 10 so this tournament is going to be exciting, she said. Whichever teams come through, they're going to be great match-ups and great games.