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Fear the Turtle
Kelli Anderson
April 17, 2006
Gutsy NCAA women's champ Maryland will be even stronger next year
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April 17, 2006

Fear The Turtle

Gutsy NCAA women's champ Maryland will be even stronger next year

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The nets have been cut down, the mess from the celebratory disturbances on campus cleaned up, the White House visited. What's next for the Maryland Terrapins, who came back from a 13-point second-half deficit to stun Duke 78--75 in overtime in the women's NCAA title game on April 4? More of the same, quite possibly, for several years to come. The Terps' starting five of two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior was the youngest in the tournament field this year--and the only thing they will lose next year is the underdog status that fueled them to a school-record 34-win season. "We'll be the hunted now," says coach Brenda Frese. "And that brings questions. Is next year's team going to be hungry enough?"

Motivation was never a problem this year. Just like Billy Donovan's precocious Florida Gators, the Terrapins brashly shoved aside more experienced teams on their way to the title. No Terp played more confidently than point guard Kristi Toliver. The 5'7" freshman overcame a wretched shooting performance in the first half against Duke and hit a three-pointer over 6'7" Blue Devils center Alison Bales to tie the title game and force OT. "I came to Maryland because I wanted to be able to contribute right off the bat," says Toliver, who was also recruited by Duke and Connecticut. "I didn't want to be a part of a team that had already won a national championship."

Now, of course, that's exactly what she is. Besides defending the title next year, Toliver will have to contend with the presence of 5'9" sophomore point guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood, the 2004 Parade player of the year who transferred from Tennessee in January. But Toliver sees the competition as just another reason why the Terps will improve. "We're friends and teammates, and we're going to compete every day in practice and make each other better," says Toliver. "And that is only going to make our team that much better."