By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun
5:53 PM EDT, March 16, 2012
COLLEGE PARK —
Kim Rodgers watched Maryland's 2006 national championship game victory at home with her parents in Virginia Beach, Va.
She committed to Maryland the next day.
"That shows you the impact it had on me," Rodgers, now a redshirt senior, said Friday. She said friends teased that she was trying to jump aboard the Maryland "bandwagon."
As the second-seeded Terps (28-4) prepared for what they hope will be another deep NCAA tournament run beginning Saturday at Comcast Center against 15th-seeed Navy (18-13), the effects of the 2006 title linger.
There is the white "National Champions" banner hanging between the American and Maryland flags high above the Comcast Center court. The title continues to provide cachet. It might not be enough to attract a top high school player by itself, but it lends Maryland a certain something extra in recruiting wars.
In the case of Rodgers, a 5-9 guard, "it kind of helped put her over the top," said Maryland coach Brenda Frese, who is in her 10th year in College Park. "There are still kids that tell you they were in sixth, seventh or eighth grade [in 2006] and can tell you exactly where they were during that [title game]."
Fifth-year senior Anjale Barrett, a 5-10 guard who has started all 32 games this season, was also part of the first recruiting class following the national title.
The championship creates expectations, even six years later.
"It always comes up," said junior forward Tianna Hawkins, who set a Maryland women's record with 24 rebounds in a win over Wake Forest on Jan. 19. "They always ask, 'When are you going to win the next one?'"
After last season's NCAA tournament second-round loss to Georgetown, Maryland players said they knew they had the makings of a potent team in 2011-12. The Terps, led by Alyssa Thomas — this season's Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year — lost no seniors from last year.
"We started off in the preseason with the Final Four being our goal," Rodgers said. "Once we hit our stride, we started to feel this team had some special aspects to it." Fifth-ranked Maryland started the season 16-0 before losing on the road to Miami.
The Maryland-Navy winner will play either 10th-seeded Michigan State or seventh-seeded Louisville on Monday at Comcast Center for the right to move on to the regional semifinals in Raleigh, N.C.
Navy won its second straight Patriot League tournament to claim an NCAA berth.
Navy coach Stefanie Pemper has said the Mids may try to do something unexpected to get the taller Terps out of their comfort zone. Navy ordinarily plays a sagging, man-to-man defense.
On offense, Navy may try to slow the pace against the Terps, an up-tempo team.
"You absolutely have to do something different," Frese said of Navy. "We fully expect that. We expect anything and everything."
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