Maryland, Stanford hope to crash Final Four party - WSMV Channel 4

Maryland, Stanford hope to crash Final Four party

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Maryland and Stanford hope to crash the party at the Women's Final Four this weekend in Nashville.

The Terrapins (28-6) and Cardinal (33-3) both hope to prevent a matchup between unbeaten Connecticut (38-0) and Notre Dame (36-0) in next week's final.

"Players in the tournament just kind of resent a little bit of the inevitability," said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer during a conference call on Wednesday. "Like why have the tournament if it's inevitable? We definitely want to be party crashers."

The Cardinal, the No. 2 seed in the Stanford Region, were the last to earn a Final Four berth after beating fourth-seed North Carolina 74-65 on Tuesday night.

"We're very excited to be invited to the Final Four and playing in Nashville," said VanDerveer. "Our team had, I think, one of our best weekends beating Penn State and North Carolina. We're playing very well. Everyone's healthy and ready to go."

All-American Chiney Ogwumike scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in Tuesday's win.

"Nobody expects us to win and that just fuels us," said Mikaela Ruef, who scored a career-high 17 points Tuesday. "We're going to go out and have fun."

Stanford hasn't won a national title since 1992. The Cardinal lost to Tennessee in the 2008 championship game and to Connecticut in the 2010 title game. Stanford also lost in the national semifinals in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

No. 4 seed Maryland gets another shot at Notre Dame, a top seed in the Notre Dame Region, in the national semifinals. The Terrapins' rally fell short, 87-83, in the teams' Jan. 27 ACC game at College Park, MD.

"The expectations are high with Notre Dame and UConn for a reason," said Maryland coach Brenda Frese. "They've backed it up all season long with their undefeated record.

"But we just want to be true to who we are and continue to keep fighting and battling and scrapping and see where it takes us."

In the teams' ACC matchup, Notre Dame played much of the game without Natalie Achonwa, who was in foul trouble in the earlier game. The school announced Tuesday that Achonwa had suffered a torn ACL during Monday's region final win.

"She played about half the game so we were able to get a good look at what the team is like without her in there, and that helped us a little bit," said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. "It does present some problems when you lose your best rebounder against a team like Maryland, who is just big and terrific on the boards, and a player like Alyssa Thomas, it created a couple of more problems for us."

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma doesn't feel his team will disrespect Stanford or Maryland.

"We've entered the tournament undefeated a number of times and I know what the hype is surrounding that, and I know how everyone throughout this season has wanted to make it about this inevitable march towards two undefeated teams playing for the national championship," said Auriemma.

"I kind of don't like when you have a sense of like you're disrespecting people, and I wouldn't want either Maryland or Stanford to feel like we're just there as filler for the Notre Dame-Connecticut big thing because I've been there, I've seen it and I don't like it."

Connecticut beat Stanford 76-57 in Storrs, CT, on Nov. 11.

"We didn't really know who was going to be in our rotation," said VanDerveer. "We were looking at a lot of players at that point and I feel like I understand our personnel a lot better. It's a tough way to start."

Maryland won its regional championship on Louisville's home court on Tuesday, the only team that won on an opponents' court.

"Just really to be able to see our team, how we've grown, the paths in this NCAA Tournament and the games that we've gotten to play - Texas, Tennessee and Louisville - we've really seen our team grow into a special young team," said Frese.

Notre Dame will play Maryland on Sunday at 5:30 p.m., followed by Connecticut and Stanford at 8 p.m.

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